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The Centre for Sustainability is one of the University of Otago's Premier Research Centres and has been around since 2000. It grew from a few small research projects into the interdisciplinary, collaborative Research Centre it is today.

Initially set up by Professor Hugh Campbell, it was originally named the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment but was commonly referred to as CSAFE. Hugh mainly studied the social side agricultural sustainability and had a strong interest in food sustainability. He was joined in 2002 by Professor Henrik Moller who bought research projects with an ecological and indigenous focus with him.

The Centre continued to grow with the addition of large interdisciplinary projects such as ARGOS and Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai.

In 2009 the Centre was formally recognised as a University Research Centre and secured research funding for large projects such as Energy Cultures, Rural Futures and Biological Economies. The Centre continues to sustain a high level of research funding and contributes collaboratively to research streams throughout the country.

In 2011 the Centre was renamed the Centre for Sustainability to reflect the wide range of research programmes and interests of staff and students. Professor Janet Stephenson was appointed Director as Professor Campbell moved to Head the new department of Sociology Gender and Social Work (now part of the School of Social Science).

In 2014 staff and students moved to its current site on Castle Street. In addition to offices the redeveloped facility included a seminar room and collaborative meeting space.

Professor Stephenson stepped down as Director of the Centre in January 2022. Associate Professor Caroline Orchiston was appointed Director from 1 February 2022.

The Centre has successfully supervised a large number of New Zealand and international postgraduate students and summer bursars. It has run a regular Seminar Series for over 15 years and hosts many national and international visitors.

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