Issue 7 - 6 August 2013 enews home

Postgraduate student leaves a legacy in Sumba

By Louise Errington


CDU postgraduate student Sarah Hobgen will present her research at the IAG International Conference on Geomorphology this month

A Charles Darwin University postgraduate student will present preliminary findings from her research into Indonesian water catchments at a conference in Paris this month.

Sarah Hobgen will present her paper, entitled “Sediment Budgets in data poor regions: Case study from Kambaniru River Catchment, Sumba, Indonesia”, at the 8th IAG International Conference on Geomorphology, which brings together scientists from all over the globe to discuss changing landscapes and sustainability.

Ms Hobgen said erosion issues experienced in the East Nusa Tenggara province where Sumba was located were similar to those in Northern Australia.

“The islands of the East Nusa Tenggara province are some of the driest in Indonesia, and rainfall is predicted to become more variable with climate change,” Ms Hobgen said.

“Farming has been done in Sumba for more than 3500 years, however food security is becoming increasingly challenging due to changing agricultural practices, a growing population and inadequate water distribution.

“Water storages have been constructed in an effort to provide reliable water supplies, however the highly erodible landscape, uncontrolled burning and removal of vegetation on riverbanks has caused them to fill with sediment.”

Ms Hobgen said her research involved developing methods of applying free mapping software and satellite imagery for local governments to use to inform catchment management practices.

“Providing opportunities for improving the local government’s capacity to understand sedimentation processes is vital for the development of appropriate catchment policy and management plans,” Ms Hobgen said.

“Developing techniques for the mapping of sediment sources and high risk areas for topsoil erosion will see local people have the capacity to design and implement measures to reduce sedimentation and improve food security.”

While abroad, Ms Hobgen will visit the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies to consult maps and images recorded in Sumba during the Dutch colonial era to trace landscape and waterway changes in the region.