Relocated down under

As mentioned in the last post, on December 31st I relocated to Sydney Australia for a 6 month post doc Endeavour fellowship, hosted at the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) University of Technology Sydney (UTS). It has been a little over a month and a half of adjustment; balancing finishing the odds-and-ends of getting the PhD papers published, working on the exciting on-going work of P-Futures, and starting a new 6 month project.

Red Leaf pool in the Sydney area.

Red Leaf pool in the Sydney area.

The P-Futures front has been particularly exciting. We just got back from Blantyre Malawi where we held our second stakeholder workshop, did field trips, and got to know our new local research partners better (see photos below). Learning from Hanoi, we incorporated a lot more small group work and it was a success (we were able to do some great systems mapping and also allow for cross-sectoral learning between the stakeholders). Close collaborator and friend Dr. David Iwaniec also posted on the Hanoi workshop and a Phoenix workshop on futures I participated in, both of which shaped how we tweaked the Blantyre event. Because of the trip timing, we were able to do our field visits before hosting the workshop, and this was quite beneficial for the research team because we had a greater understanding of local context and why people were bringing-up certain goals and concerns in the workshop. The Sydney and Phoenix workshops are coming up in March so we are now busy with inviting those stakeholders and creating even more refined and locally-adapted workshop days. The 3 year proposal deadline is also next month so working in that document is also a big priority.

Creating system map of current priorities and drivers in small groups. Photo credit: David Iwaniec

Creating system map of current priorities and drivers in small groups. Photo credit: David Iwaniec

Maize is the staple crop in Malawi, and it is grown everywhere (really everywhere). You can clearly see however which plots have been fertilized and which ones have not. Photo credit: Genevieve Metson

Maize is the staple crop in Malawi, and it is grown everywhere (really everywhere). You can clearly see however which plots have been fertilized and which ones have not. Photo credit: Genevieve Metson

Last year I had posted a link to a climate change resettlement photo series that I found very moving. Climate change induced resettlement is also “hot” in the scientific literature (e.g. this Nature piece). When visiting Malawi, the effect of extreme weather events, which are indeed increasing in frequency with climate change, hit home. Torrential rain and floods in and around the city were were staying in has left around 200,000 people without homes and destroyed crops.

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Chikwawa District just south of Blantyre Malawi which was severely affected by the floods. You can still see some of the standing water. Photo credit: Genevieve Metson

Back in Sydney, one big change has been working in an office environment instead of at home or in cafes (although I have been sure to get some good cafe time in on the weekends!). It is a good thing, especially because everyone in the ISF office does different, but equally exciting, things around sustainability. It is great to get exposure to so many projects, approaches, and great people. Working “regular” business hours however has been challenging as my natural rhythm seems to be working more in the evenings.  I think I am adjusting slowly but surely though.

I am currently working a project to map current and possible future P supply and P demand in the Greater Sydney Basin as a tool to help stakeholders make decisions about how best to manage phosphorus in the city. Getting familiar with data sources in a new country, the local context of a new and exciting city, and learning about spatial modeling and participatory tools in decision-making have been my 1st order of business. It is still on going of course, but I now feel like I have a bit of direction. (I even completed my code academy class on Python coding!) I hope this project can contribute and interface with another exciting project at ISF around food, farming, and resilience in the Sydney Basin. Although I am focusing on Sydney now, the idea is that the methods developed during the 6 month project can then be applied to the other P-Futures cities if local stakeholders feel like a spatial tool would be helpful in moving towards sustainable P goals.

My interest in continuing art-science collaborations has not died down with the move. In fact, I have even started to take dance classes again, and even attending an event at PACT center for emerging artists about unusual art collaborations this weekend. I also just read a feature on  climate change and music, and discovered a UTS based project (which is where I am based at) using art and science around climate change in multiple media that I need to investigate further.