Clare
Stephens

Project: Research Focussing on Hydrology and Climate Change

Clare is an environmental engineer and PhD student at University of New South Wales, investigating the performance of hydrologic models under climate change scenarios. Before starting her PhD, she worked for four years as a flood risk management consultant in Brisbane, during which time she was selected as the Young Environmental Engineer of the Year by Engineers Australia and served as Queensland President of Engineers Without Borders.

Clare moved to Sydney to pursue further study in 2016. Her main focus is to test the current methods being applied to account for future climate impacts on water resources and to look for more effective strategies. Her PhD is due for submission this September, after which she plans to pursue a career in academia.

She hopes that she can contribute to efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change through both practically-focussed research and value-oriented teaching approaches. Clare believes engineers and scientists have an important role to play in creating a more sustainable and equitable society.

MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET

As a researcher, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to pursue different projects on a daily basis that aim to improve climate resilience. One fairly ambitious idea I have is to study the water use of common trees under climate change in the urban environment. Since southern Australia is expected to become drier as climate change progresses, understanding the water requirements of trees we choose to plant will be especially important. This is particularly relevant in Sydney because of the five million trees project.

I was living in Brisbane when the 2011 floods devastated southeast Queensland, so I’ve seen first-hand the pressing need for resilient communities. I’m deeply committed to helping Australia minimise its climate impact and adapt to the future changes we expect, especially in terms of water management and natural disasters.

MY PROJECT

As a hydrologist and researcher at UNSW, I’m lucky to work on many projects aiming to improve understanding and simulation of water resources under climate change. However, most of my past work has had a strong technical and modelling focus. As part of the Women4Climate program, I’m starting a new study looking at international collaboration to improve global water resilience through ‘soft’ diplomacy. This could include professional exchange programs, where high level water managers from different countries visit each other's institutions to learn new approaches.

My project aims to better understand how knowledge sharing programs can most effectively enhance water management under climate change. This will involve collaboration between engineers, water experts and social scientists.  Together, we will aim to provide evidence-based information that can guide decision makers to maximise positive impact.