Thu 12, Dec 2019
WA Division of Ag Institute of Australia - Citation for the Award of Excellence 2019
Dr Richard George, Bunbury
Dr Richard George has over 35 years’ experience in a wide range of agricultural and natural environments in Western Australia. Richard was awarded a PhD in 1991 from the University of Western Australia, with the title of his thesis being ‘Interactions between perched and deeper groundwater systems in relation to secondary, dryland salinity in the Western Australian wheatbelt: Processes and Management Options’.
With this work Richard commenced his research career in catchment science, specialising in hydrology and hydrogeology and he has applied his research skills and knowledge in addressing issues associated with dryland salinity, management of groundwater resources for irrigation, and natural resource assessment.
Through his career, Richard has led teams of professionals in the (then) Department of Agriculture and Food assisting rural and regional industries through R, D & E focussed on resource assessment, analysis and modelling. He continues in his leadership role, now managing the Water Science unit within DPIRD’s Agriculture Resource Management and Assessment branch. The team’s applied science has been supported by research partnerships with CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and other agencies. Richard and his team have worked on major projects in the East and West Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, Midwest, Wheatbelt and Great Southern.
He currently holds the position of Senior Principal Research Scientist in the Sustainability and Biosecurity pillar of the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD).
Contributions that are recognised by peers
Richard is widely respected in WA, nationally and internationally for his contributions in hydrology, hydrogeology, geophysics and geosciences, which have found important applications in the management of dryland salinity and development of groundwater resources for irrigation.
Richard adapted tools from the mining industry (ground and airborne electromagnetics) for use in catchment assessment and gained international recognition for their use and interpretation. He has an impressive record in publishing and communicating his research and investigative findings. His science publications include over 50 refereed Journal papers, book chapters and another 100 Conference papers and Reports. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor with UWA and Murdoch Universities. Through his research career, he has been involved in several national collaborative programs (Land and Water Resources Research) and four Cooperative Research Centres (lead scientist to board member).
Some of the significant achievements of Richard’s career in addressing salinity issues in the agricultural areas are as follows.
• Development of management mechanisms and policies to address dryland salinity, focusing on the impact and role of revegetation; and the inability to manage salinity unless under specific local site conditions.
• Defining, designing and managing engineering projects to reclaim or protect key Nature Reserves and Ramsar wetlands – e.g. Toolibin and Towerrinning Lakes.
• Protecting cropping and new water (and energy) systems for horticulture in challenging areas (e.g. Collie, Peel).
• Desalinisation technologies for low rainfall agriculture areas (wheatbelt farms, livestock industries), and irrigation (e.g. Wellington Reservoir).
• Richard was recently appointed by the Hon Alannah MacTiernan, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food to the newly reformed Soil and Land Conservation Council.
Contributions recognised by industry
Richard’s research and investigations have made and continue to make numerous contributions to industry development in many areas of Western Australia.
Richard led the science-team that gained Federal Environmental approval for the $515 million Ord Expansion Project, involving primary design, data collection, analysis, and peer review.
Elsewhere in northern WA, Richard was involved in the evaluation, approval and development of the groundwater and land resources critical to the implementation of the La Grange, Carnarvon and related projects. This included defining over 1,000 GL and 100,000 ha for food/fibre production. This work occurred through the $40m ‘Growing The North’ (West Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne Foodbowl) where Richard led project innovation, design and land and water assessment.
At Myalup, north of Bunbury on the Swan Coastal Plain, he has led research and investigations to sustain the existing irrigation area through understanding physical setting and soil-aquifer process, and he is championing the opportunity for development of new agriculture in the area though improved State-based planning, and new systems of water capture and management.
Sustained and substantial period in the regions
Richard has spent his entire career since 1985 based in and working from regional locations – Narrogin, Merredin, Bunbury and Kununurra – from where he has worked in projects across the state and nationally.
Dr Richard George has contributed 35 years of high quality service to agriculture and natural resource management. Richard is a land and water scientist passionate about Australian agriculture and the management of the resources on which its future relies. He believes in evidence-based science and its role in supporting agriculture. His attributes and contribution are regarded highly by his peers and industry clients. He is a worthy recipient of the WA Division’s Award of Excellence.
Dr David Windsor
Chair, WA Division Committee
Ag Institute of Australia
Dr Don Burnside FAIA
Member, WA Division Committee
Ag Institute of Australia