Rheophilia interview with water scientist Professor Barry Hart

It was an absolute pleasure to talk with Professor Barry Hart about his childhood growing up in Bairnsdale, what inspired him to become a water scientist and how he and his wife, Margaret, raised four children, while Barry studied for a PhD and taught part time. We discuss how he went against the flow and set up the Water Studies Centre at what was then Caulfield Institute of Technology to carry out applied research in freshwater systems. We trip through his time at Monash University and his role in helping establish the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, and I ask him what motivates him to keep working in water management and policy after so many years. Barry also gives me his insight into what he considers are the major issues facing Australia’s freshwater ecosystems now and in the future. Thanks for a great chat Barry.

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Interview with environmental historian Professor Emerita Heather Goodall on Rheophilia – Interviews in Freshwater Science

With a slight departure from strictly focusing on freshwater, I talk with Professor Heather Goodall about how her research and interests in environmental history, and especially the central roles that fresh-, salt- and brackish-water have played in it all. She explains the origins of her interest in history, and chronicles her research on, and collaboration with, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in inland and coastal, and urban and rural settings. We discuss the cultural significance of fish and rivers of the Murray-Darling, in her collaboration with Jodi Frawley, Scott Nichols and Liz Baker on the Talking Fish project, as well as her enduring environmental, historical and cultural interest in the Georges River. And I was especially keen to learn of Heather’s work with, and appreciation of, Isabel Flick, the renowned Aboriginal rights activist and community leader. It was a delight to talk with Heather.

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Interview with stream ecologist Prof Andrew Boulton on Rheophilia: Interviews in Freshwater Science

In my first interview for 2021, I talk with Professor Andrew Boulton – probably best known for his work on the ecology of intermittent streams and the hyporheic zone (that cryptic environment within the wetted sediments of many streams and rivers) and his co-authored textbook Australian Freshwater Ecology – about the origins of his love of aquatic ecology, his obsession with temporary waters, a Eureka moment during his post-doc in Arizona, the many collaborations with Australian and international freshwater scientists, editing a scientific journal, and how work keeps falling out of the sky, even after ‘retirement’ aged 47. It was an absolute pleasure to catch up with him and chat about his career, his science and the serendipitous nature of life and work.

Posted in Australia, River ecology, River ecosystems, River management, Temporary water bodies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Dr Brian Timms on Rheophilia: interviews in freshwater science

My latest interview for Rheophilia is with invertebrate taxonomist, ecologist and geomorphologist Dr Brian Timms. Brian has studied the invertebrates that live, reproduce, die and live again in temporary water bodies and salt lakes in some of Australia’s most challenging arid environments. His publication history spans more than 50 years, during which time he has described dozens of invertebrate species, and together with many Australian and international collaborators, drawn attention to the incredible diversity of animals – and the ecosystems in which they live – that would otherwise go unnoticed.

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Interview with Dr Emily O’Gorman on Rheophilia: interviews in freshwater science

My latest interview for Rheophilia is with Macquarie University environmental historian, Dr Emily O’Gorman. Emily researches human relations with water and her work is particularly fascinating because the historical perspective reveals the benevolent, malevolent, scientific and unscientific, funny, enlightening and always changing attitudes that we have towards water and water bodies such as rivers, swamps and marshes and the like. Her work is never more relevant than today, when scientists, managers and the broader community seeks answers to large and complex questions about water in this driest of inhabited continents. There is a lot to learn from the past!

Posted in Diseases associated with rivers, Environmental history, River and History, River research, Water and culture, Wetlands | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Terry Hillman on Rheophilia

My interview with Dr Terry Hillman AM is now up on Rheophilia. Terry is a wealth of knowledge, insight and humour, as he talks about his beginnings studying agriculture at Dookie College, northern Victoria, completing his PhD at ANU and his dabbling in agal ecology, through to his time at CSIRO and as Director of the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, and the work monitoring changes in the Murray River because of development of the twin cities of Albury and Wodonga. In the hour or so we chatted, we only managed to get to about the mid-1980s. I will have to invite him back to hear more of his time during huge changes in science and management of the food bowl of Australia that is the Murray-Darling Basin.

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Interview with Rhonda Butcher on Rheophilia

My latest interview on Reophilia is with Dr Rhonda Butcher, where she describes her rather meandering career as a wetland ecologist and environmental consultant. We talk about her early work at the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre in the 1980s with Terry Hillman, John Hawking, Russ Shiel and others, her collaboration with Alan Yen and Richard Marchant at the National Museum in Melbourne, her PhD at Monash under Sam Lake’s supervision, and various serendipitous events that led her to become a well-respected environmental consultant in freshwater, as she heads Water’s Edge Consulting.

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Interview with Gavin Rees on my YouTube channel Rheophilia

Today I have launched my first from a series of interviews with freshwater ecologists on my YouTube channel Rheophilia.

The brave guineapig was Dr Gavin Rees, microbiologist and food-web enthusiast, from CSIRO’s Land & Water. In our wide-ranging interview, Gavin tells of the origins of his passion for microbiology in New Zealand in the 1980s, his move to Australia and his subsequent reasearch career in river ecology. Thanks Gavin for being such a good sport.

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Will Cuppy and his thought on fysh(es) and other animals


Will Cuppy (1884-1949) was an American satirist, humorist and literary critic, who, among other things, wrote lively, satirical articles about animals and history for the New York Herald Tribune and its predecessor for 23 years. I discovered him purely by accident, while browsing through a book of quotes in the National Library of Australia. Finding one of his books, I began to read, and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The books’ titles are fabulous, and give you an idea of what you will find inside: How to Become Extinct, How to Attract the Wombat, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes, and others. I was particularly taken by his articles about animals, as you can imagine.

I have decided to read and record the chapters from his book How to Become Extinct and post them on YouTube. I will do this sporadically, as the fancy takes me. I hope you like them. Click on the YouTube link to access the first one: Fish and Democracy (It goes for about 7 minutes) and feature an illustration for the chapter by William Steig.

For more on his life, read this article Celebrating Will Cuppy – Satirist extraordinaire, by Simanaitis Says.

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Fish and river concerns in 1925’s Australia

Fred Lewis about fish 3

Photograph in Fred Lewis’ Fish and Fishing Waters, 1925

While undertaking research on other matters, I stumbled – thanks to the inimitable Gilbert Percy Whitley – on a chapter in Sir James Barrett’s 1925 book Save Australia: a plea for the right use of our flora and fauna (Macmillan and Co. Ltd. London), By Fred Lewis, entitled Save Australia: Fish and Fishing Waters. Continue reading

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