Living Laboratory delivers real-world solutions

08 March 2023 | News

A luxuriant arboreal treasure trove packed with exotic and native flora and fauna, including the largest collection of magnolias in the South Island; a doublet of mini dairy farmlets focused on optimising the inputs/recycling/waste/profitability balance; a sport science hub where athletes and scientists collaborate in the eternal pursuit of enhanced performance.

These are just three of the real-world projects that Lincoln University students and researchers, working alongside industry, iwi and other community partners, have delivered in the three years since the Lincoln University Living Laboratory was established.

Launched in 2020 and led by Dean of the Faculty of Environment, Society and Design Professor Roslyn Kerr, the Living Laboratory complements Lincoln’s world-class land-based education programmes, providing a mechanism and resources for students to collaborate with specialists and community advocates to collectively solve local and global challenges in key fields such as environmental, social and economic sustainability, business, climate change and land and water management.

“The Living Laboratory concept offers our students the opportunity to develop their real-world problem-solving skills and positions our campus as a collaborative hub where students, academia, iwi and industry participants come together to address some of the major challenges facing the land-based sector,” said Professor Kerr.

Recent Living Laboratory projects include the above-mentioned Arboretum, Dairy Futures and the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratory, as well as the Mt Hutt Forest and Bike Park, which has enabled a partnership-based focus on the challenges of land use for parks and outdoor recreation.

“Engaging in Living Laboratory projects gives our students a rare and powerful opportunity to support their study by developing, testing and applying innovative and practical solutions to real risks and problems facing land-based industries now and in the future,” added Professor Kerr.

“Lincoln University is committed to providing a student experience that is second-to-none, and having the chance to work with other partners and researchers on local and global issues is incredibly enriching for them.

“Through our Living Laboratory concept, Lincoln University students are enabled to make a significant positive impact on many industry sectors even while they’re still pursuing their studies.”

Leadership of the Lincoln University Living Laboratory has been transferred from Professor Kerr to Doctor Jerry Maroulis and Doctor Tracy-Anne De Silva, who are now co-leaders of the Living Laboratory.

Initially, Doctors Maroulis, De Silva and the Living Laboratory Management Group will reaffirm the concept of the Living Laboratory and further strengthen its focus on providing a mechanism for students and researchers to collaborate with industry partners and community groups in developing practical solutions to real-world problems.

“The Living Laboratory concept provides exciting opportunities for academics, students and community. We are looking forward to working with academics to enhance the various learning experiences for our students and the community that are provided by our Living Laboratory projects and communicating these to our stakeholders,” said Doctors Maroulis and De Silva.


Living Laboratory Project: Revitalising the Arboretum

Prior to 2021 the Lincoln University Arboretum was a beautiful, but underused and underappreciated campus space. The Arboretum Guardian Group, comprising Lincoln students and academics, Lincoln Envirotown and mana whenua representatives, have successfully redeveloped the Arboretum into a prized campus asset and a space where students, staff and the local community can come to relax, make connections and enjoy nature.

The Arboretum is now used as an ongoing Living Laboratory for student learning, and has been integrated into many study programmes throughout Lincoln University’s three Faculties.

Living Laboratory Project: Dairy Futures Living Lab

The Dairy Futures Living Lab consists of two mini-farms (12 hectares), each designed to explore future dairy farming options which meet the environmental, social and economic challenges facing farmers now and in the future. Aiming to enhance the landscape and promote biodiversity and resilience in soils, plants, animals and people, both farmlets’ goals are to reduce inputs, improve recycling of nutrients and reduce waste, while also maintaining or improving profitability. Both properties have adopted either a conventional best practice approach (Best Now) or alternative future design approach (Dairy Future) to achieve these outcomes. Decisions are predicated on science-based principles, or where the science is limited, new approaches are tested and measured. Students, researchers and public and private enterprises are encouraged to engage with the Dairy Futures Living Lab, and invited to propose, test and monitor ideas and solutions which solve real-world problems on a platform that allows for monitoring and extension of those outcomes. Several of Lincoln University’s agricultural courses have integrated the Future Dairy Lab into their learning.

Living Laboratory Project: Sport and Exercise Science Laboratory

Located at Lincoln University’s state-of-the-art exercise and fitness centre, Whare Hākinakina, the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratory provides a hub where athletes, coaches and scientists come together to understand why elite athletes achieve great performances, how their performances can be further lifted, and ultimately how to translate this knowledge into winning outcomes for individual athletes and sports teams. This Living Lab is central to many of the University’s internationally-recognised Sport and Recreation courses, including its sport scholarship programme, which aims to balance sporting success with academic achievement, providing its student-athletes with well-rounded programmes that develop their physical, intellectual and personal performances. Additionally, the Sport and Exercise Science Laboratory is in the unique position of being able to offer its leading-edge research capability and hi-tech measurement equipment for the benefit of students, staff, gym members and the entire community.

Researchers at the Living Lab believe exercise is medicine and improvements in health come quicker when combined with functional food and nutrition. The Lab has developed partnerships with researchers throughout Aotearoa, including Lincoln University’s Pastoral Livestock Production Lab to discover how sustainable food sources can improve human health and provide the science behind functional foods as a ‘farmacy’ from paddock to plate.

Living Laboratory Project: Mt Hutt Forest and Bike Park

The establishment of a Living Laboratory at Mt Hutt Bike Park, owned by Sir Graeme Harrison, has allowed a partnership-based focus on the challenges of land use, parks and outdoor recreation. Sir Graeme Harrison has funded two Masters scholarships and one summer studentship to:

  • Evaluate the degree to which Aotearoa’s planning framework and national-level greenhouse gas policy is fit-for-purpose in managing multi-valued, multi-purpose land such as Mt Hutt Bike Park, and what should be changed (or recommended) in the new planning and policy framework
  • Assess the recreation demand potential for the Mt Hutt Bike Park
  • Develop a restoration plan for Mt Hutt Bike Park

Other examples of Lincoln University Living Laboratory projects can be found here, and include topics such as Ecology and Conservation, Environmental Management Systems, Planting Design and Management, Event Planning and Sport and Recreation Management.

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