Exeter Cohort 4 student Jessica Penny travelled to both Australia and Fiji for her research visit in the summer of 2022. The Coronavirus pandemic had significantly disrupted Jess’ PhD project, including her case study sites, so key motivations for this visit were to obtain the required data from her eventual case study locations and to meet with local stakeholders. Additionally, Jess was keen to work with her industrial supervisors in person, rather than solely through the medium of online meetings.  Although she was only able to undertake a brief research visit, Jess packed a lot in!

In Adelaide Jess was hosted by Steve Barnett, Principal Hydrogeologist in the Government of South Australia’s Department for Environment and Water. Jess presented her research findings to governmental and university personnel and conducted fieldwork, including interviewing local farmers and water allocators. This information exchange enhanced Jess’ understanding of changes in groundwater use over time, the impact of climate change on sites and the extent and impact of land use change – all of which has helped to refine her PhD thesis.

In Suva, Fiji Jess worked with Dr Carlos Ordens, Hydrogeologist with the Pacific Community’s Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division. In addition to working closely with Dr Ordens, Jess met with local people and with members of the Pacific Community to learn first-hand about land use change, current challenges and a nature-based solution to combat coastal flooding.  Jess says she felt humbled by the experience.

Jess feels she benefited greatly from the in-person contact with her industrial supervisors, their groups and local stakeholders. She has already produced one paper and has a second in progress. Jess’ hosts also appreciated her visit, commenting that it demonstrated “the type of research that can be done to help improve land use change and water management”.



Left: South Australia & Steve Barnett

Right: Fiji with Dr Carlos Ordens

(note the change of wardrobe!)