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By  Maigan Thompson 7 March 2024 3 min read

Key points

  • Janet Anstee is the Deputy Mission Lead for the AquaWatch Australia Mission.
  • Janet’s expertise in monitoring water quality from space is helping us build AquaWatch.
  • She is working to connect with Indigenous communities and exploring Indigenous-led research for AquaWatch.

Janet Anstee is stepping into the Deputy Mission Lead role for AquaWatch Australia.

Water is an essential resource. As we feel the impacts of climate change, protecting our access to clean water is a pressing concern for everyone. This is especially true for Indigenous communities across Australia and beyond, for whom water quality deterioration is a significant challenge.

It’s a concern Janet Anstee shares. Janet is the Deputy Mission Lead for our AquaWatch Australia Mission. And she is putting the issue front and centre as she steps into the leadership role for our ‘weather service’ for water quality. 

“I joined the AquaWatch team to explore opportunities for us to connect with communities and identify potential projects for Indigenous-led science,” Janet said.

“It’s exciting to take this work forward in my new role, as I also look at how we deliver our Science and Technology roadmap.”

Co-designing and collaborating on Country

Janet feels a responsibility and pride in her commitment to Indigenous engagement and co-design.

“My own family's Indigenous heritage was disconnected from their community and Country,” she said.

“It underscores to me the importance of promoting Indigenous knowledge and science on Country, particularly through the generations.”

Janet has found ways to reconnect with her heritage through her work on coastal and inland water monitoring. She championed Eye on Water Australia, a citizen science project focused on Indigenous communities in the Kimberley. 

“Much like the AquaWatch system itself, Eye on Water Australia uses the colours visible in water to measure water quality,” she said.

The difference in data collection is that it uses photos taken by participants on their phone, instead of satellite and sensor images.

“This makes it a great option for students and members of the community to submit data from local waterways."

Recently, Janet was one of CSIRO’s scientists to represent AquaWatch Australia on the international stage. She spoke at a workshop held by UN Water on Indigenous knowledge inclusion in global water quality monitoring. 

Back home, Janet has turned her attention to opportunities for Indigenous-led projects. Her focus is engaging communities and developing right-way science partnerships. 

“One of the pleasures and privileges is being on Country with Elders and youth, which sparks the opportunity to not only value Indigenous knowledge but learn from it,” she said. 

Janet Anstee (left) with CSIRO colleagues Marlee Hutton (middle) and Kiehana Carter (right), both Bardi Jawi women.

Onwards and upwards for AquaWatch

As Deputy Mission Lead, one of Janet’s first priorities is driving the conversion of water quality science into real-world applications for AquaWatch. Her expertise in water monitoring projects places Janet well to drive AquaWatch as the mission enters its second year.

“What excites me about assuming a leadership role for AquaWatch is the coordination and implementation of the Science and Technology Roadmap,” she said.

“It outlines our way forward to deliver AquaWatch and make it a sustainable service for our future in Australia.”

Janet’s goals for AquaWatch are embedded in her coastal and inland water monitoring experience.

“This has given me insight into the value of maintaining long-term programs, and the lasting impact they can have for people and our environment,” she said.

Janet looks forward to working closely with the talented team making AquaWatch happen.

“Having just celebrated 30 years at CSIRO, one of the best things about my job is working with intelligent individuals, facilitating their career growth and celebrating their accomplishments,” she said.

Janet Anstee, AquaWatch Deputy Mission Lead, scuba diving with a sea turtle

Conserving our aquatic ecosystems

When not thinking about water at work, Janet can often be found in water. She loves the perspective she gains from submerging herself in some of the most breath-taking dive locations around the world.

“It gives you a real appreciation for the wildlife and ecosystem below the surface,” she said.

If given the opportunity to solve a global problem through science, Janet’s focus would be on biodiversity. She's interested in preserving all aquatic ecosystems, including coral reefs, while simultaneously reducing plastic pollution.

“I want to ensure that future generations, including my own children, can witness and appreciate these wonders,” she said.

“Personally, I get so much joy and contentment from the experience of camping with my family in remote and beautiful locations. It’s a big part of my well-being.”

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