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WITHBACHELOR DEGREES in civil engineering
and science and a PhD in environmental sociology,
Dr Briony Rogers is uniquely placed for her present
research role. She’s tackling the technical and social challenges
required to make our urban water systems more sustainable
and resilient to the impacts of climate change, a growing
population and increasing urbanisation.
JANE KELLEY PhD student,
LaTrobe University AgriBio
FOR RESEARCHER Jane Kelley, helping an
individual farmer is just as rewarding as knowing
that she is helping the entire dairy industry
overcome one of its biggest threats to milk
productivity – a parasite called liver fluke.
“When I finish my lab work, I can email the vet to
inform them that they need to treat now,” she says.
“The end product for the farmer will be healthier
stock, which is important from a welfare perspective
and also for increased productivity for the farmer.”
Kelley, who grew up in Gippsland, Victoria, was
the recipient of the Dairy Australia Award at the
2014 Science and Innovation Awards for Young
People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
The award came with a grant that has enabled
her to use a cutting-edge diagnostic technique
to investigate the prevalence and burden of liver
fluke on Victorian dairy farms. This is the first
time the new technique – developed in 2004 by
a group of Spanish scientists – has been used in
large-scale field trials in naturally infected cattle.
The liver fluke parasite currently costs the
Australian livestock industry $60–90 million every
year. Kelley hopes her undergraduate research,
which she is now continuing as a PhD student, will
help generate improved methods for managing
the parasite to a point at which the impact on milk
production and animal welfare is minimal.
– Gemma Chilton
Research Fellow, Monash University Water for
Liveability Centre and CRC for Water Sensitive Cities
As a civil engineer, Rogers spent five years working for private
infrastructure services consultancy GHD where she was responsible
for civil engineering design and project management on a range of
water infrastructure projects both in Australia and Vietnam. She was
passionate about sustainability, but recalls that by the time designs
landed on her desk, most of the big decisions influencing
sustainability and resilience had already been made.
Rogers decided to take on doctoral research at Monash University
and investigate processes of social change in relation to sustainable
infrastructure and technology. “I drew on my technical understanding,
but with the recognition that to implement new approaches, social
systems would have to change as well,” she says.
Now, as a Research Fellow for the Monash University Water
for Liveability Centre and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities,
Rogers works with key stakeholders to design strategies and new
methods to build the “social capital” required to transform the way
we plan, design and manage our urban water systems. Rogers’
interdisciplinary background means she can act as a bridge between
various stakeholders, from engineers and ecologists to landscape
architects, as well as organisations such as local councils, state
government departments and private enterprise.
The big picture goal, Rogers says, is to transition to “water sensitive
cities”, in which decentralised, low energy technologies are integrated
with centralised networks to build resilience in the face of an
unpredictable future. This requires thinking outside the square,
she adds, and recognising that water infrastructure “is not just
a pipe underground”, but a valuable part of the urban landscape,
providing benefits that can enhance the liveability of a city. She
gives an example of green cities that are irrigated using harvested
stormwater to reduce extreme heat during heatwaves.
“ We’ve been building our water systems in large-scale, centralised
modes for a couple of hundred years, so it is very difficult to change
our approach,” Rogers says. “ That ’s partly why this type of research
is so important – to understand what is locking us into traditional
systems, so we can overcome those barriers to support innovation
not just in rhetoric, but in practice.”
Rogers was this year selected by the International Social Science
Council to be one of 20 early-career World Social Science Fellows
in the area of sustainable urbanisation. – Gemma Chilton
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