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Byron Shire
May 15, 2021

Pre-eminent hydrologist joins SCU to help tackle climate change

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Paul Bibby

One of the country’s foremost hydrology and water resources experts, Associate Professor Peter Coombes, has joined Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus.

In a move which comes as the region – along with much of the country – is crippled by drought, Dr Peter Coombes has taken up a position as Chair of Engineering in the university’s School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

He is now hoping to turn his skills to the task of addressing the impacts of climate change.

‘As Chief Scientist, I wrote many new policies about how to adapt to challenges in the future,
but I was also met with a lot of resistance,’ Dr Coombes said.

‘This is particularly upsetting when I look at the current fire and drought events affecting our
nation.

‘I’ve moved here to make a difference.’

One of the early co-authors of the Science Engineering and Innovation Council’s assessment of Australia’s water future, Dr Coombes also served as Chief Scientist for the Office of Living Victoria, advising the Victorian Government on water reform policy.

For the past two decades, he has been Managing Director of Urban Water Cycle Solutions, an independent applied science and policy think tank.

Along the way he’s been awarded more than $3 million in research funding, the GN Alexander Medal for contributions to the science of hydrology and water resources, and this week the President’s medal for services to Engineering by Engineers Australia.

‘What’s being done here is quite unique, so it’s relevant that the world knows about it,’ he says.

‘For example, the coastal systems engineering research is relevant to most countries around the world, and is profoundly relevant to nations impacted by climate change.

One misconception he plans to set straight is that engineering and science are separate
disciplines.

‘People think engineering is just about building, but it’s about fixing things and solving problems,’ he says.

‘In my world, scientists need to work alongside the engineers if we want to solve the world’s’ problems.’


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