Mara Wolkenhauer

Mara Wolkenhauer

Moving from Marine Science to Waterway Health to Water Recycling, Mara is now a Business Development Manager at the University of Otago, focusing on science translation and facilitating science-industry collaborations. As a connector, Mara’s expertise are in idea-generation, inspiring others to talk about their work and passion together, realising the potential for mutual benefit for all involved, including the environment.

Catchments Otago – Building Resilience Through Transparency

How can we encourage our water researchers to work across disciplines and share valuable work outcomes with each other? How can we facilitate proactive dialogue and persuasive conversations between catchment groups, local industries, the government and the general publics? How can we make it easier for external organisations to contact researchers with a common interest? One simple answer: Catchments Otago – Water Biodiversity People (http://www.catchmentsotago.org/)

On a rainy day in June 2015, with major floods across the city occurring that day, professional staff at the Research & Enterprise Office met with interested academic staff to discuss a common concern: are we doing enough to halt the decline of our freshwater systems? Do we use our resources efficiently to leverage from each other’s expertise? Are we supporting our communities to become more resilient in the face of increasing extreme weather events? In 2015 the answer was NO; the answer now is MUCH BETTER.

That group of 12 people grew to become Catchments Otago, an umbrella for over 40 researchers from the faculties of Health, Commerce, Physical Sciences and the Humanities/Law with an interest in water research. More importantly, we have shown our commitment to communities, helping to make the southern South Island of New Zealand a more resilient place, a place where freshwater systems are again taonga – treasured spaces.

This presentation is about a success story where professional and academic staff of a university have come together for one common purpose: supporting integrated catchments management for the future. We will talk about our relationships with regional councils, communities, catchment groups and local industries, and how community events such as “Lab at the Lake” have supported us in our cause – we are water.

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