Fernanda Adame

Restoring and managing wetlands- the most valuable ecosystems on the Planet

Fernanda Adame


Wetlands provide invaluable, natural ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, improvement of water quality, and protection from tropical storms and flooding. By understanding those ecosystem services, my research is demonstrating how they can be leveraged to solve the most significant challenges of our times: climate change, water pollution and biodiversity loss. 

Through management, conservation, and restoration of wetlands, I am working to (1) improve the water quality in the Great Barrier Reef region and (2) reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Australia and Mexico. 
Achieving change requires a diversity of thought, experience, and voices. Thus in my pursuit of wetland conservation, I seek to bring all perspectives together: I engage with the general public that my research will impact, I nurture the next generation of conservation scientists, and I work closely with government bodies to drive changes to policy and practice — all to enact the change we so desperately need.


Through my research, I seek to solve the most significant challenges of our times: climate change, water pollution and biodiversity loss. I believe that restoring and conserving wetlands are natural solutions that should be prioritised for the maximum delivery of benefits for nature and humans alike. 
Through early engagement and continuing guidance from all stakeholders, my research has provided an invaluable evidence-based to demonstrate the multitude of benefits that are gained from restoring and conserving wetlands. For example, I work with the Queensland State Government as part of the Wetlands Team to understand how wetlands can improve water quality. Before our collaboration, water quality issues in the Great Barrier Reef were only managed at the paddock scale, for instance, by reducing fertilisers and the timing of their application. After seven years of collaboration with the Wetlands Team, we have shown that constructing, restoring, and protecting wetlands is a complementary and cost-effective strategy that can bring not only water quality but also biodiversity benefits. 

One of the key outcomes of my research work on the Great Barrier Reef has been the development of a conceptual model for nitrogen movement and transformation in catchments. This model has made highly complex biogeochemical information more accessible to practitioners, resulting in better-designed and justified natural management actions for improving water quality, such as revegetation and wetland restoration (wetlandinfo.des.qld.gov.au/wetlands/ecology/processes-systems/nitrogen-concept-model/). This conceptual model has made accessible very complex biogeochemistry information to practitioners.
I have also been a leader in the science and implementation of Blue Carbon for coastal wetland restoration and conservation in Australia. I co-designed the first Blue Carbon tidal inundation methodology, which has enabled farmers to obtain carbon credits for restoring coastal wetlands. In addition, I am supporting the development of a new Blue Carbon methodology for facilitating Indigenous-led projects in coastal wetlands by managing feral animals.
My research work has also had a significant impact internationally, particularly in wetland management and conservation. The information from my research has been incorporated into the Mexican Emissions Reductions Program for 2020, and I am an active member of the mangrove expert advisory team for the Mexican Government. I have also worked collaboratively with Malaysian researchers to assess the ecosystem services of mangroves and the effects of deforestation on carbon emissions, which is critical for the development of Malaysia's Blue Carbon program. Additionally, I have worked with NGOs in Mexico, with funding from the Di Caprio Foundation, to create carbon credits from a mangrove reserve. This project won the Keeling Curve Prize 2019 for its innovative approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Finally, I strongly believe in collaborating with local and Indigenous peoples, and my work on this topic has been published in one of the top scientific journals, Nature (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01795-1). The article discusses the importance of ethical collaboration with locals and developing countries and has contributed to a change in the way the journal operates by requesting authors to have local co-authors when working outside of their country (see: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01423-6).

In summary, through collaborative partnerships with various organizations and government bodies, I have developed innovative strategies for wetland restoration and conservation in Queesland and internationally, resulting in significant environmental and social benefits.

Role Model

As a scientist and a mentor, I am particularly passionate about supporting and empowering women in STEM, especially those who aspire to become experts in wetland science and conservation. I believe that women face unique challenges in pursuing a career in science, and I am committed to creating a supportive and inclusive environment in my laboratory.

Currently, I have six people in my laboratory, four of whom are women. I am mindful of the difficulties that women face in academia, and I am committed to providing equal opportunities for women to excel in their careers. I pay extra care when reviewing applications from women who are interested in working in my laboratory and ensure that their work is recognised and valued. I believe that it is essential to have diversity in the workplace to encourage creativity, innovation and inclusivity.

As a mentor, I have always encouraged women to pursue their passion for science and to be confident in their abilities. I have mentored several female students and researchers in Australia, Malaysia and Mexico, and I have seen them grow and develop into successful professionals. I am proud of my first PhD graduate, a student from Pakistan, who is now an expert in wetland biogeochemistry and leads a group at one of the top universities in Singapore. Another Iranian girl who worked as a research assistant in my group has now secured a stable wetland conservation and management position at the Queensland Government. These women are proof that with the right support and guidance, women can overcome the challenges and succeed in their careers.

In addition to mentoring, I give frequent workshops to women who are high-degree students or early career researchers. These workshops focus on maintaining productivity while balancing a career and a family, a topic specially difficult for young women wanting to have children. I am a member of the Women in STEMM community and the Australian Rivers Institute, and I actively participate in their programs and initiatives to support and promote women in STEM.

In conclusion, I believe that promoting diversity and inclusion in STEM is essential for creating a supportive and innovative work environment. I am committed to mentoring and supporting women in science and ensuring that their contributions are recognised and valued. My goal is to inspire and empower the next generation of female scientists to pursue their passion and make a positive impact on the world.


I conduct engagement at several levels: from communicating with the general public to influencing state, federal and international policy through collaboration with government agencies. I ensure that the results of my work are widely published through different media, including public forums, such as being a pannelist at the Queensland Museum during Wetlands Day 2023. I hav also being a pannelist at the World Science Festival (2018, 2019) and I regularly give talks to community groups (e.g. Redlands 2030, Australian Conservation Foundation), and give interviews for traditional media (SBS, ABC). For instance, I created in collaboration with an NGO in Mexico (Wildcoast) two television documentaries on the role of mangroves in mitigating carbon emissions. The documentaries were shown in prime time on international television and viewed by over 10 million people across Latin America. In 2018, I joined the Flying Scientists program, in which I travelled to remote communities to share my knowledge of wetlands and inspire young students to become scientists.
  I have a strong ability to use art for effective and powerful research engagement with the general public. I have created an exhibition in collaboration with visual and audio artists, achieving exceptional public interest. Wetland Wander is a multimedia installation that documents the value of wetlands for indigenous communities, farmers, rangers and tourist operators. It has been able to communicate important research around scientific and cultural values to a broad and non-academic audience. This work has been exhibited five times in the past two years, reaching an audience of over 5,000 people. Exhibiting venues include the Queensland Conservatorium, White Box Gallery, Ramsar Convention- Dubai, Redland Gallery and Performance Centre, and the BIIG conference. The exhibition is permanently stored and available (www.wetlandwander.net), further increasing its reach and impact. I also worked with Elders in Minjerribah, creating "Wira wira", a documentary on the importance of water for culturally important wetlands (https://youtu.be/oCEW5Y_yfUw) which was showcased in NADIDOC 2022. Due to my strong engagement with various stakeholders, I have been awarded three prizes for the past three years: the Australian Rivers Institute science communication award (2018,2019) and the Pro-Vice Chancellor's Research Excellence in Research Engagement (2019). 

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