Saving our ocean must remain a priority. Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet.
– United Nations

Environmental research related to water systems at VU has a practical focus, resulting in quantitative information provided to state, federal and international environmental agencies. It is used to positively influence the protection, rehabilitation and resilience of threatened species, ecosystems and human communities.

In addition to this collaborative and impactful contribution to environmental protection, we conduct our own University business in a responsible way, creating positive ecological effects through practical intiatives.

14 Life below water (fish & water icon)

Research, engagement & education 2020-21

Research with impact

Our water researchers work with government agencies to decontaminate water supplies.

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl compounds) contamination is a developing crisis, as the chemicals are toxic, highly persistent and accumulate in the bodies of fish, animals and people.  The water researchers continue their work on methods for the removal of PFAS contaminants from wastewater by using in-situ formed ferric nanoparticles. This work involved a collaboration of researchers from VU’s Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities, University of Melbourne, CSIRO and the South East Water Corporation.

Linda Diep is currently undertaking a doctorate on Management of volatiles and use of pelts in the magnetic cleaning of oiled wildlife process, supervised by John Orbell, furthering his work on using magnets to safely clean oil from spills off marine animals 

Professor John Orbell, in conjunction with the researchers at the Penguin Foundation, developed the magic oil spill wand to safely clean oil from spills off marine animals. Oil spills can have a devastating effect on the environment, but the team is now working on further development of the Oil Spill Wand to be able to dramatically reduce the impact oil spills have on wildlife. The project team hopes to make the Oil Spill Wand available to Wildlife Rescue Centres across the world within three years.


We collaborate with Environmental Group Limited’s EGL Water to test new technology.

VU is the research partner to Environmental Group Limited’s EGL Water, for testing a new technology for removing harmful per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from contaminated wastewater, soil and groundwater. The testing found the small-scale laboratory rig successfully removed more than 80% of PFAS from contaminated soil and water. This indicates the technologies potential to cost-effectively remove PFAS from the environment. 

Victoria University’s Footscray Park Campus is situated on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. VU Students and staff regularly work as volunteers to clean up rubbish from the banks of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers that converge a short distance south of the campus. The clean ups prevent plastic waste from travelling down stream into Port Phillip Bay, to reduce microplastics in our oceans and the threat of plastic entanglement and ingestion by wildlife. Between April 2018 and February 2020, students and staff participated in the Yarra River Blitz to undertake an audit of rubbish along the river system and to clean up millions of litter items, using the innovative boat mounted vacuum system, removing approximately 38,000kg of litter from the reed beds, rock walls and riverbanks of the lower Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers.

The Plastic Solutions Project, an EnactusVU initiative for VU students to target the UN Sustainable Development Goals, takes VU’s commitment to the environment one step further by investing in clean up events across Victoria and reusing the plastic rubbish gathered to make useful objects. In addition, the project works to inform youth and the community of the economic, social and environmental benefits of responsible plastic management through a school’s program.


Courses and student groups aim to conserve and rehabilitate the environment.

The Bachelor of Outdoor Education and Environmental Science and the Bachelor of Outdoor Leadership engage students in study of the natural environment, environmental rehabilitation, conservation and sustainability.

The student driven STEM Club, was formed to enable VU’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) students to come together, build their professional skills and to connect with industry.  The idea was proposed by Professor Thomas Yeager, a researcher in the Applied Ecology & Environmental Change research team. 

Victoria University volunteers clean up river banks.

Sustainability on campus

VU has a backwash water treatment plant with all mains water connections to closed-loop mechanical systems and laboratories/potential contamination areas protected with backflow devices. Backflow devices are tested annually.