I was a little girl and woke up in the early mornings back home in Germany. I would sneak upstairs into my parents bed to observe the life surrounding the River Inn which ran past our house. There were the king fishers, the herons, the carp and the ducks that foraged, migrated or rested. This is the place that taught me what an ecosystem is - how everything is connected, but also how these connections can be disturbed. Twenty years later - at the other end of the world - I have evolved into a freshwater ecologist, studying New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystems, guided by a picture that formed when I was a little girl looking out of my parent’s large bay window.
Since then, I have seen many different river ecosystems, some healthy, many not so healthy anymore. Over the past twenty years, New Zealand’s river water quality has declined at a rapid race and we are now committing large amounts of our time and effort to restore and manage river ecosystems. Water quality is really only one component of an ecosystem, but the most studied worldwide. Despite the amount of data we hold on water quality and the amount of effort we spent to improve it, we are unable to link our actions to outcomes.
My project will look into how we can record and report on-land management actions effectively to improve water quality. For this, I (along with a large national team made up of scientists, communicators, policy planners and iwi) will set up a national register of on-land mitigation actions with the aim to communicate where, when and what mitigation actions have been done throughout New Zealand over the last decade.