What is your thesis topic/field of interest?
Aqueous geochemistry. In my research I look at how the chemistry of surface water bodies and groundwater aquifers changes in space and time. Some of the water samples I measure have been in the ground for tens of thousands of years, so each sample provides a glimpse into how the Australian landscape has evolved. By examining changes in water chemistry it is possible to understand how past and present climate and land use have affected water quality, which helps us understand what we have to do to continue living on the driest inhabited continent.
Where have you come from to do this program?
It’s been a very enjoyable journey to get here. After completing my undergraduate degree in Canada, I worked as an environmental consultant for almost eight years, both overseas and in Australia. I was involved in a range of environmental projects from cleaning up petrol stations and oil refineries to decommissioning mine sites.
I moved to the Amsterdam to do my masters degree, which involved a healthy amount of travel around Western Europe on field courses. I also had the opportunity to spend several months in Perth, WA conducting my thesis research. My time in Perth gave me a taste of the good life in Australia, so when the opportunity came up to start a PhD at ANU I jumped at the chance!
What experience have you gained while studying at RSES?
The experience of doing a PhD at RSES has been fully immersive. I have completed every aspect of my research project in-house using RSES resources. Sample collection, analysis, and data modeling have all been done using state-of-the-art equipment, and the technical support I received while learning the ropes was fantastic.
Working on water quality in the Murray Basin has been very topical, and I’ve received a crash-course in the ins-and-outs of water use and water quality in Australia while preparing my thesis. It is exciting to know that my group’s research may contribute to the sustainable management of Australia’s water resources in the future.
What have you learned about yourself during your time here?
That I’m always happy to talk shop! There is a real awareness in Australia about the numerous threats to long-term water availability, and a lot of people are interested in knowing more. From regular water users like farmers and gardeners to everyday people who just enjoy a regular dip in the pool, everyone I meet is interested in what is being done to manage Australia’s water. And I’m always up for a chat about it.
Where do you see yourself upon completion of the program?
Somewhere in Australia, contributing to the discussion on water resource management. During my time at RSES I have been able to help develop a novel method to examine how different water bodies are connected to each other, and I’m hoping to apply that technique in other parts of the country. There are lots of opportunities for hydrogeologists in Australia, and I’m happy to help fill the demand.
What has been the highlight of the program?
Finishing! Writing my thesis has given me the opportunity to look back at all the work I have done over the last 3 years, and to reflect on how much I have learned in that time. Having the opportunity to put it all together as I write my dissertation has been very enjoyable, and the whole experience has given me the confidence to know that I can really make a significant contribution to my field.