FROM CODE TO CATCHMENTS – A MODELLER’S JOURNEY TO SOLVE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS

Author: PhD Alyssa Giffin

Read time: 703 words about 5 minutes.

Welcome to part two of the five-part Transition article series, the sequel to the Emergent series, that follows ARI’s Post-Doc Research Fellows as they navigate the next stage of their academic journey post-PhD. Take a journey with them and hear about some of the lessons they have learnt and what drives their passion for their research.

Dr Mischa Turschwell in the field.  Photo: ARI.

Today we put a spotlight on Dr Mischa Turschwell, an innovative statistical ecologist in spatial modelling who focuses his time on finding solutions to complex environmental problems. Mischa is part of the Global Wetlands Project (GLOW) and Seascape Models group within the Australian Rivers Institute (ARI) and is currently leading work on a Blue Economy CRC grant and a SESYNC pursuit. Mischa completed his PhD in 2017 and started a post-doc with ARI shortly after (also in 2017).

What is your favourite aspect about your research?

With my current work, contributing to the conservation of coastal wetland habitats because they provide so many benefits to ecosystems and humans. But across research more generally, I love the freedom and flexibility to work on things that interest me.

What is your proudest achievement to date?

I think publishing my first PhD chapter and getting my first citation. To finally see all the hard work come to fruition and be included in scientific discussions really made me feel like I was a part of the research community.

Where do you see your career taking you or where would you like to be in 5 years?

Who knows!? That’s both the beauty (and scary) part of academia. Hopefully I’m still in research working on things I’m passionate about.

Working in a great lab (both culture and research wise) can go a long way to helping create an inclusive and supportive research network that will benefit you for years to come

What continues to challenge you?

I think wanting to do everything myself on each project I work on. I need to learn that it is okay to ask for help and leverage people’s specific skillsets when collaborating in a multi-disciplinary team.

What would you say to inspire HDR candidates looking to move into a post-doc position?

I’d say don’t be tied to a specific project when choosing a post-doc. Make sure you end up working with great people as well. Working in a great lab (both culture and research wise) can go a long way to helping create an inclusive and supportive research network that will benefit you for years to come.

Mangrove coastal seascape. Photo: GLOW.

What are the main issues you see that need addressing in your field?

It’s a pretty broad brushstroke, but I think prioritising where conservation action needs to be targeted to have the biggest bang for buck for both the environment and humans. There’s a lot of work starting to come to fruition on this topic but long-term validation of how conservation actions have (hopefully) benefited the environment are still a way off.

What brought you to ARI?

I started working here as a Research Assistant after I completed my honours over at UQ. That soon turned into a PhD project, then a short post-doc contract, and here I still am, almost 7 years later!

“…on my first field trip into the Condamine Gorge. I ended up walking through a huge thicket of stinging nettles while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I had no idea what they were at the time but I got pretty good at pointing them out and avoiding them after that incident!

What has been your funniest moment doing research?

Oooph that’s a tough one. I’d say on my first field trip into the Condamine Gorge. I ended up walking through a huge thicket of stinging nettles while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I had no idea what they were at the time but I got pretty good at pointing them out and avoiding them after that incident!

How did you find the transition from PhD into being a Post-doc?

I think the biggest challenge for me was having to manage my involvement in so many more projects. But, that was also a positive because it also gave me exposure to so many different avenues of research. It was a refreshing change compared to my PhD where I was so immersed in a specific topic.

Learn more:

Dr Mischa Turschwell. Photo: GLOW.

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