Julia Howitt

Julia Howitt is a senior lecturer in chemistry at Charles Sturt University, based at Wagga Wagga. Julia’s research has taken her from the mountains to the ocean and the rivers, creeks and wetlands in between. For Julia, water is a central component of her work and her free-time.

Julia Howitt

The importance of water . . .

Water is very important to my everyday life. Much of my research focuses on questions related to water and aquatic environments. I’ve been involved in projects studying wetlands in the mountains, rivers and streams, floodplains, estuaries and coastal zones.

I have worked on projects studying aquatic organisms that live there, nutrient and carbon cycles and how they support the food web or alter the function of aquatic environments, to name just a few.

Water is also important to my recreation – I love to walk by a wetland, river, or on a beach. I am part of a canoe/kayak club and our Saturday morning social paddle is often referred to as the ‘river appreciation society’.

Here in Wagga, we have the beautiful Murrumbidgee River winding through town, bringing with it many recreational opportunities, fabulous wildlife and the occasional convenient fieldwork site (although most of my projects are based around sites further afield).

Where do you go to get away from it all?

I like to get out onto the river in a kayak, particularly in the late afternoon when the sun is low and the air is warm. If the current is slow, the river will become reflective and glassy and the sparkling sunlight will contrast with the long shadows of the river red gums on the bank.

Birds come down to the water – galahs, cockatoos and corellas playing in the trees and drinking on the banks, cormorants and shags drying themselves in the sun, bright kingfishers flashing through the trees. It’s different each time.

How often do you go there?

I go to the river about twice a week during the warm weather, less in the winter, but I drive across the river to get to and from work each day!

What do you like to do there?

Kayak, swim (preferable the planned kind of swimming, rather than the upside-down kayak kind), walk and chat with friends.

How do you feel when you are there?

It is very relaxing to be by the river, especially when it is quiet without many people around and you become aware of all the bird song and the wind in the trees.

Why is it an important part of your relaxation?

Combining fresh air, cool water, exercise and beautiful surroundings is a pretty good starting point for relaxation! I often include water in my holidays as well – snorkelling on a reef, swimming with manta rays and whale sharks, boat trips on lakes or to islands, or kayaking with a pod of dolphins.

Happiest memories?

When we were young, my whole family would go down to the river to swim in the evening as the huge flocks of galahs and corellas would come in to roost. Sometimes we would picnic, and wade through the shallow water. If you stood still for too long, the tiny shrimps would start to gather and gently nibble at your feet.

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