PhB Isobel Bender Makes News For Fenner School Research

How can you start a Bachelor of Philosophy at the College of Arts and Social Sciences, and less than two years later find yourself speaking to the Snowy River Alliance Annual General Meeting about water flows you’ve researched at The Fenner School? Isobel Bender’s got the answer.

This year, Bender found herself on the front page of the Monaro Post alongside Prof. Jamie Pittock, after delivering crucial findings to the Snowy River Alliance one Sunday afternoon.


Finding The Fenner School
While Isobel is studying Bachelor of Philosophy (PhB) Honours at the College of Arts and Social Science, pursuing minors in Environmental Policy and Indigenous Studies, her major in Environmental Studies, allows her to also study within College of Science, at The Fenner School. A requirement of Isobel’s PhB is to complete four semester-long research projects, and through her major, Isobel found herself taking on two research projects with The Fenner School’s Professor Jamie Pittcok as her primary supervisor.

Isobel approached Jamie in mid-2019 to see if he had any projects she could help with. He explained he had been speaking with members of the Snowy River Alliance, who were concerned about the lack of environmental flows being delivered to the Snowy River. Specifically, members felt that the promised 212 GL had not been delivered. 

“Members of the SRA felt this research was important, as they feel there has been considerable lack of transparency about what has been implemented for the Snowy River. For example, information on what has been delivered to the Snowy River, in relation to environmental flows, currently cannot be sourced from one information source. Additionally, from 2002 there has been 12 years with no active independent committee, considered pertinent for communication between the NSW government and stakeholders, like the SRA. So,” Isobel explains, “Jamie asked if I could look into it.”

The Snowy River Alliance were particularly interested in Isobel’s research because the efforts and campaigns of their membership has been a crucial part of how and why environmental water is delivered to the Snowy River, and the waterway is restored. 

“They are invested in continuing to ensure the best outcome for the Snowy River.” Says Isobel. As a product of her research, she keenly understands her history and stats, and the significance of the Snowy River Alliance’s work:

“When the Snowy Hydro Scheme began in 1972, 99% of Snowy River’s Mean Annual Natural Flows (MANF) had been diverted into the scheme. So where the Snowy River naturally recontinued, now at the bottom of Jindabyne Dam, its flows had been reduced to 1% MANF. Leading up to 2002, the Commonwealth, NSW and VIC governments agreed to return environmental water to the Snowy River – outlined in the Snowy Water Inquiry Outcomes Implementation Deed (SWIOID) 2002. The deed outlines that from 2010, a target of 212GL/yr would need to be returned, equivalent to 21% MANF.”


Presenting her findings
Isobel’s presentation to the AGM focused on making clear the story of the environmental flows that have been delivered to the Snowy River since 2002. She presented information about the water quantities, environmental objectives and monitoring that had been outlined and agreed on in legislation for the Snowy River, what had happened since these agreements and whether this aligned with what had been promised, and what relevant stakeholders felt about these targets and the life of the Snowy.

“Members of SRA said it was gratifying to hear someone accurately outline what they have been struggling with, and it was helpful to have some clarity around what has been delivered for the Snowy since 2002.” She adds.


Next steps
Isobel’s findings don’t stop at the completion of her research project, or at presenting to the Snowy AGM, or at being featured on the front page of the local newspaper, the Monaro Post.

“We are currently trying to publish the research and are in the middle of the review process. I am also half way through my degree with two more research projects to complete (and then Honours). Through working with people like Jamie and Matt Collof, I have become very interested in water policy, and I hope to use my next two research projects to focus on some aspect of water management.”

Her studies prove that Environmental research has a flow-on effect.