Name: Kyle Horner

Position: PhD Student

Research School of Earth Sciences

Australian National University

Area of study: Hydrogeology

Project: Water quality factors affecting groundwater sustainability in the eastern Murray Basin

What does that mean?

In the Murray Basin, and many other parts of Australia, surface water and groundwater quality are declining due to increasing salinity.  Many causes of salinity are natural, a fact of life on the driest inhabited continent.  However, human activities such as land clearing and irrigation can have dramatic effects on the environment and may increase the threat of salinity if not appropriately managed.  To ensure the sustainability of Australia’s limited water, it is critical that researchers are able to separate natural salinity from man-made salinity.

Fortunately, each salinity process has a distinctive “chemical fingerprint”.  By looking at the way water chemistry changes along the length of a river, or in a farmer’s pumping bore during an irrigation season, it is possible to identify the major sources of salinity.  Farmers and water managers can then use the information to ensure they are making the best use of this precious resource.

How did I get here?

I grew up in the forests and mountains (and yes, snow!) of northern Canada, where my love of the natural environment took root.  After completing my undergraduate degree in geology and soil science at the University of British Columbia I worked as an environmental consultant.  Following more than 7 years of cleaning up contaminated sites and abandoned mines around Canada, I moved to Amsterdam to do an M.Sc.  My Ph.D. project at the ANU, examining water quality in the Murray Basin, has been a great chance to see how things are done down under, particularly when water is short but demand is high!

Where will I go?

My mom’s favourite question! In the short-term it’s off to Vietnam to help deliver a workshop on soil and groundwater sampling techniques to Vietnamese researchers and conservation officers.  Medium-term, I’ll be at my desk until this pesky Ph.D. is done.  Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess.