March 6, 2024

Jane Waterhouse: making waves in Australia’s first water quality market #IWD24

Introducing Jane Waterhouse, Senior Scientist, C2O Consulting and TropWATER James Cook University + Member of Eco-Market Australia’s Technical Advisory Committee

Jane is a widely published scientist with more than 25 years’ experience working in the Great Barrier Reef on catchment and marine water quality science, catchment management and science coordination. Jane’s vast experience and depth of knowledge of water quality issues and land management options in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, have made her a critical member of the Reef Credit Scheme’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), since it was established in 2019.

The TAC is a three-member expert panel providing independent advice and support on technical aspects of the Reef Credit Scheme’s standard and methodologies, and the development and delivery of the Scheme. The specialist panel plays an important role in helping uphold the highest level of integrity in environmental market processes and outcomes.

Jane’s expertise and in-depth knowledge and experience is highly regarded and valued by the extensive scientific and water quality community. We are very glad to have this Reef Queen part of the Scheme team. 

What do you do to help improve the water quality in the Great Barrier Reef?

I’m involved in translating science for management from the catchment to the reef. Our team is currently leading the update of the Scientific Consensus Statement about the influence of land-based runoff to the Great Barrier Reef, the sources of pollutants and management options.

I’ve been working in this space since 1998. I’ve been involved in many projects that require synthesis of the best available science to help managers make decisions, as well as various regional planning projects, including the Regional Water Quality Improvement Plans.

I have also led the inshore water quality monitoring component of the Marine Monitoring Program for TropWATER JCU since 2016, which keeps me updated with current knowledge about water quality conditions and impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

Why is this important to you?

I am passionate about the Great Barrier Reef and the protection and maintenance of its incredible values. I have always enjoyed visiting the Reef since I moved to Townville from WA in 1997. I especially love the coastal and inshore areas which are so diverse, accessible and beautiful – there is just so much to do and enjoy!

What have been some of the challenges you’ve come across?

I have been very lucky to have a very positive working environment. This is partly because I made the decision to start a business in 2008 to ensure I had flexible work hours to support my children and keep working; that has made a big difference for me. I am pleased that it worked out – and realise it’s not an option that everyone can choose.

What approach did you take to achieve that balance?

I chose projects I enjoy and can accommodate the flexible work hours. We were very fortunate in the early years of C2O Consulting to be engaged by Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) to undertake project management of a major research program at the time. This work was incredibly interesting and enabled us to progress our skills and knowledge, and still be able to participate in our kids’ activities.

What support have you received?

Clients like the RRRC, the Regional Natural Resource Management groups, and the Queensland and Australian governments have been integral in supporting our work over the years. I am also part of a great team and have an extensive network of colleagues and collaborators across government, regional NRM groups, researchers, industry and conservation groups.

Building and maintaining these relationships is really important for maintaining a rewarding work life. I am particularly interested in bringing together disparate pieces of knowledge to try and tell a cohesive story to inform better management – this requires input across the whole network of people involved in water quality management for the Great Barrier Reef which can be challenging at times but provides continuous learning opportunities for our team.

Who inspires you?

I have had the benefit of working with many incredibly clever, kind and generous people who are genuinely making a difference to the way the Great Barrier Reef and water quality is understood, is managed and how improvements can be delivered. That keeps me going.

What advice would you give other women in the industry?

Sometimes the first big leap to find that family and work balance is very challenging, but it is definitely worth it. For me, maintaining working relationships and networks has been critical to having an interesting and successful career, as well as having a mix of tasks – there is never a dull moment!

What else can we do to accelerate water quality improvements for the Great Barrier Reef catchments?

Water quality improvement takes time, and I do think that we are on the right track, but we have to keep our foot down and substantially increase efforts.

Smaller scale and whole of catchment planning and management involving local people is key to accelerating success. One of my major frustrations is the lack of communication of the Great Barrier Reef science to a wider audience, and the relatively short-term nature of the funding programs. It makes it hard to keep people engaged.

My interest in synthesis of scientific information for managers is one way that I feel I can contribute to making sure that the current science is used for decision making, but much more could be done to bring along the community in the efforts to improving water quality and why it matters.

Thank you Jane for sharing your story.

For more information about Eco-Markets Australia and participating in the Reef Credit Scheme, please explore our website.