Alluvium Consulting Australia
Rehabilitation and restoration of Queensland’s rivers and waterways
My work as an environmental engineer and scientist, is to transform degraded waterways to their former glory. Through rehabilitation and restoration projects, I work to repair erosion issues in creeks and rivers and convert channelised, concrete drains to diverse urban waterways.
More specifically, in the river rehabilitation space, my work involves the engineering design of interventions that will enhance the rivers or creeks system and allow them to regain the equilibrium that was disrupted, usually due to human influence and impact.
In the urban channel restoration space, my work involves the reimagining of waterway and parkland function. I help to create spaces that achieve multiple benefits for the community, like stormwater conveyance, landscape hydration, nature play and exploratory learning spaces, and general parkland aesthetic enhancement.
My work is based predominantly in south-east Queensland, with some work extending into north Queensland. Rivers and waterway are integral to our way of life in Queensland and are a resource that is beneficial to our regional environment, economy and communities. However, since European settlement in Australia, anthropogenic influence on our landscape have caused a number of adverse impacts, one of which has been the degradation and modification of rivers and waterways. My work is undertaken with the goal of restoring Queensland’s waterways form and function through restoration works that employ a range of nature based and engineered solutions.
Waterway rehabilitation and restoration projects have multiple benefits to Queensland’s environment, economy and communities. These benefits are not only felt in the immediate vicinity of a project, but extend to the downstream environment and receiving waters, which in the case of most of my work, is either Moreton Bay or the Great Barrier Reef.
Streambank erosion is a large contributor of fine sediment and nutrient pollution to the environment. All over Queensland, this kind of erosion has been widely studied, with large investment having been committed to undertaking projects which reduce streambank erosion. While environmental factors are often the motivation for river rehabilitation works, fine sediment and nutrients can also cause problems for key community services, such as water utility providers. Siltation of water supply offtake can result in issues for drinking water supply and higher water treatment demands for adequate pollutant removal. Similarly, where there are Ports such as in Brisbane, reduced sediment export from a river can significantly reduce the requirements for dredging around a port ad shipping channels, providing a substantial economic benefit to a region. A well protected catchment with stable river banks and established riparian vegetation has benefit the Queensland community, environment and economy.
For our urban environments, undertaking channel restoration or naturalisation can have a multitude of benefits for Queensland. Historically, our waterways have been straightened and concrete lined creating highly efficient routs for stormwater to follow. However, these channels lower the amenity of parks and land they are located in and offer no ecological value. The restoration work brings together the principles of waterway stability, flood mitigation, ecological diversity and community engagement to create spaces that enhance the built environment around them and create an oasis where the community can engage with the environment without traveling far from their homes. These projects are particularly beneficial to the beautification of parklands, creation of urban ecology and habitat and the establishment of community awareness with respect to understanding stormwater and how it impacts the environment. Channel naturalisation provides a space for information to be shared and interacted with by the community. Often information signs are provided which describe important aspects of the projects design or intended outcome such as the urban water cycle, the impact of littering on waterways or design features that have been included for the benefit of habitat and diversity.
I believe that I have a responsibility to my own generation, and the next, to be a visible and active advocate for women and girls in STEM. I have found myself in a career that gives me so much joy and satisfaction in the work that I do, and I want to share that with other women. Growing up in a small town in central Queensland, I did not realise the breadth of opportunities a career in STEM could offer. Within my short 5-year career so far, I have been involved in many aspects of engineering and had the opportunity to work on projects that define Queensland’s history.
I am an advocate of women and girls in STEM because I believe females have the power to redefine the way we, as a society, do things. Breaking down barriers and forging new paths will be critical to human development over the next few decades, and I believe women will be at the forefront.
I am unapologetically myself in any situation, and quite often that means embracing my femininity in a room full of men. I think that as women we often try to change ourselves to fit in, but we can offer so much more when we embrace our differences. I think in this way I am a good role model for women and girls in STEM.
I developed a mentoring program aimed at female engineering students at Griffith University and connected them with colleagues at my place of employment. I found that when I was at university, there were not enough channels available to connect with engineers working in the industry, and especially difficult to connect with female engineers. When I started working, I decided to provide that opportunity to students in a way that wasn’t previously available to myself of my cohort.
The program utilised my connection with the Women in Engineering group at Griffith University and was aimed at their members. However, the program was open to all who were interested as I was conscious not to exclude anyone wanting to make valuable connections. I reached out to my colleagues to find a range of people willing to mentor students and recruited a diverse group of engineers across different fields. I then matched mentor with mentee based on a form that each mentee filled out in which they described what it was they were hoping to achieve by being mentored. For example, if a mentee was hoping to understand where their career in civil engineering could take them, I matched them with a female engineer with major infrastructure experience. Or, if a mentee wanted to build confidence in their networking skills, I matched them with someone who held strong connections in their industry and could give tips and tricks on building relationships.
The program ran for two years and saw over 20 students participate. I received good feedback from the students and have followed some of their journeys on LinkedIn. It was rewarding for myself to see them graduate and go on to starting their careers. I hope that the program made a difference in their university experience and helped them enter the workforce with more confidence in their abilities.