Meet the experts – Sophie’s undeniable passion for Natural Resource Management
Tuesday, 28 September, 2021
Our Senior Environmental Consultant, Sophie Powrie has a keen eye for data – collecting gems of information from field surveys and conducting analysis to inform Natural Resource Management projects. Sophie loves the collaborative nature of the work pooling stakeholder knowledge and expertise. She shares her top tip for clients working on Natural Resource Management climate change projects – be bold and be focused! Her contribution to natural climate solutions is something she is extremely passionate about, helping restore ecosystems and providing quality, applied science across a wide range of projects.
How do you explain what you do for work at dinner parties?
I make maps for a living, and I use them to help inform land use decisions.
My background is quantitative ecology, systematic surveys, and spatial analysis. My job is to work together with ecologists and other experts, combining a birds-eye view of the landscape with field survey data, to map natural assets, then transfer that knowledge to Natural Resource Management (NRM). Some people ask what NRM is and the simple explanation is the management and conservation of natural assets including land, water, soil, flora and fauna. You could say I am a professional bower bird as I collect tidbits of information and arrange them in a way that makes sense for the decision at hand.
Satin Bower Bird (credit: birdlife.org.au)
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the diversity and collaborative nature of my work. Everything we do relies on good communication – amongst experts, stakeholders, regulators and land custodians. I am always learning and hopefully improving too! The landscape is ever-changing and our understanding is evolving too, so there are always new considerations.
Working with Eco Logical Australia (ELA) provides national coverage and each time we assist in a new area or revisit a familiar area to refresh a strategy, we learn and share. Take a biodiversity connectivity project, for example; we learn by applying the scientific principles to a landscape with a different context or land use every time. Each time, we are striving to reconnect and improve biodiversity resilience, and we learn from the landscape and its caretakers, allowing us to apply that knowledge to our next project.
Sophie at Coolah Tops conducting vegetation mapping
Favourite plant or animal?
Nothing beats a late winter bushwalk, seeing the first wildflowers emerge and all the cues for spring. In my area, the flannel flowers are a treat and never fail to delight and connect me to local country.
Native Flannel Flower (credit: abc.net.au)
What’s the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The future focused NRM projects are always a stand-out. I participated in a series of strategic planning projects in northern NSW that looked at co-benefit design for biodiversity and carbon sequestration (the process of removal and storage of carbon) to maximise landscape resilience. This project also recognised that environmental plantings for carbon sequestration had a life of over 100 years, so we looked at the available climate models of that time.
We developed a series of spatial maps, identifying risks to inform landscape management. This work was well ahead of its time. We outlined the uncertainty in the climate and ecology models. Without projects like this we can’t advance our understanding. I think the IPCC 6 Report has shown us we don’t have the luxury of waiting for greater certainty on how to manage the myriad of ecosystem interactions (the interactions between living and non-living things).
We have recently seen a big surge in smart natural resource management that supports conservation goals and mixed enterprises. So those early projects really stand out in my mind as we revisit and build on them.
Sophie Powrie at the ELA Newcastle office
What achievement are you most proud of?
My family and my team. I am very proud to be part of Eco Logical Australia, a team that promotes positive models for balancing work and family life in all forms. It’s a core part of my wellbeing and underpins productivity too. Balance is a concept that sometimes eludes us and it takes a collective effort at home and at work.
Sophie and the Newcastle office team playing beach volleyball
To share your genius, what’s your one tip for clients working on NRM climate change projects?
Be bold and focused. There are many intriguing interrelationships (in climatic responses across the natural world and human patterns) that can distract and at times overwhelm. Time spent distilling which critical environmental decisions you can tackle first is very worthwhile and it may take a few smaller bites at first. Along the way you will gain credibility and figure out how to work with uncertainty in your context.
The ELA Newcastle team out of the office!
How do you make a positive difference through your work at Eco Logical Australia?
NRM contributes significantly to natural climate solutions, so I am excited by the many ways our work helps to restore ecosystems and inform their management. I am very lucky to work with a talented and diverse team. Together we provide quality, applied science across a wide range of projects from saltmarsh restoration, vegetation management, pest management, urban canopy mapping, connectivity studies, biodiversity, carbon strategies and more.
I work on ‘outside the box’ NRM projects. I try to add value by determining what the end-product needs to be and design the analytical pathway to achieve the outcomes of the project.
Got a project that needs Natural Resource Management expertise?
(02) 4910 3410