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North Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Australia

I am a transplanted Australian with severe wanderlust, temporarily calling Cambridge home while undertaking graduate study at MIT.

My academic and professional background is a mixture of educational and workplace experiences. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia, where I received dual degrees in 2003: a B.E. in environmental engineering and a B.A. in Asian studies. I didn’t follow a straight path from high school to university graduation, instead taking six years to finish university and along the way spending a year in Vancouver, Canada, interning at the David Suzuki Foundation, and spending three months as a research assistant at the Mexican Institute of Water Technology in Cuernavaca.

After completing my undergraduate degrees, I worked as a consultant environmental engineer for a large Australian engineering company. My work focus was sustainable urban water management, a pertinent subject for drought-afflicted Western Australia. I have dual interests in environmental science and the application of good science to policy-making and sustainable development. While working I thought I should gain better insight into the legalities of resource planning, so I undertook a Master of Environmental Management via correspondence through the University of Queensland, which I completed in 2006.

My consultant work enabled me to combine these two interests in science and policy to help develop new policy regarding the use of recycled water, and to work with land developers and government agencies to engineer ways to embed sustainable water use into the urban planning framework. This work necessitated the involvement of professionals from all aspects of the water management system, from the environmental and public health regulators, to water utilities and business entities, and the engineers and technicians responsible for system design and implementation. I really enjoyed this work but after a couple of years felt it was time to stretch my legs and packed up my life, along with my new husband, to move to the USA.

My current PhD research sees me changing focus to investigate the role of land surface characteristics in shaping the climate of the Maritime Continent, the patchwork of islands and oceans that constitutes the archipelago portion of Southeast Asia. The specific objectives of this work are still under development, but current questions of interest are:

  1. Which land surface characteristics is the regional climate of the Maritime Continent most sensitive to, and on what temporal and spatial scales?

  1. How do deforestation and land cover conversion affect these sensitivities?

•Can we use this understanding of sensitivity to landscape characteristics to predict the influence of global warming on the climate of this region?

I joined the Eltahir Research Group in Fall 2006 and completed my Masters of Science (Civil and Environmental Engineering) in June 2008. My thesis investigated the potential for environmental management techniques to contribute to malaria vector control in Sahelian West Africa, with a case study on Banizoumbou village in western Niger. This project showed that environmental management techniques could be effective and sustainable additions to the toolbox of options for malaria control. The interdisciplinary nature of the study made for interesting collaborations with specialists in other fields, and the combination of field and numerical work kept the research fresh and engaging

spreading neem over a mosquito breeding habitat in Banizoumbou

National Geographic map of the maritime continent

Free time at MIT not being what it was on the sunny shores of Western Australia, my list of extracurricular activities has been severely diminished since moving to my new hometown. I mourn the loss of my kickboxing classes, weekend escapes to the Australian bush and post-work swims at beautiful Perth beaches. I use what free time I have here to read, write, go for long walks around Boston (winter weather permitting), continue the never-ending quest for really good coffee in the USA, and daydream about my next travel destination. I am entertaining the possibility of training for a triathlon.

After completing my studies at MIT, my goal is to continue working in the field of sustainable water management and water resource planning. Although my previous professional experience has mostly been in the urbanized developed world context, I am interested in applying myself to issues of sustainable water management in the developing world, for which my Masters research provided a good introduction. Ultimately I would like to be working at the intersection of societal and environmental needs to bring a holistic systems approach to water resource management.