Dr Yongping Wei: pioneering water research between China and Australia

Dr Yongping Wei completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne and she is now developing new approaches to water resource management in Australia and China, with funding support from an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship.

Dr Wei’s current research aims to improve current water management strategies by integrating economics, engineering, ecology and sociology.

While completing her PhD in Natural Resource Management, Dr Wei investigated farmers’ perceptions of sustainability and how this influenced agricultural practices. She became deeply interested in human attitudes and their role in water resources management, setting the tone for her future research projects.

“Sometimes an engineering solution doesn’t always work. There is a need to think on a broader level and examine culture and people’s thinking,” said Dr Wei.

“People are much more important than traditional engineering solutions. To improve water management, we must first address people’s thinking,” she said.

Established in 2008, the Future Fellowship strengthens areas of critical national importance, attracting the best and brightest mid-career researchers and opening many doors for its members.

“With the Fellowship I have plentiful time, money and support to do my research. I can use this opportunity to produce more and give back to the University.”

International collaboration, particularly with China, is also an intrinsic part of Dr Wei’s work. She is Senior Research Fellow in the Australia-China Joint Research Centre on River Basin Management, co-funded by both the Australian and Chinese governments as part of the Australia-China Science and Research Fund. Dr Wei aims to examine the differences in public opinion on water issues across nations, by looking at historical print media records. Dr Wei is working with organisations and researchers across China, Australia, Europe and the USA.

Dr Wei is ideally positioned to link researchers from China and Australia. She completed her undergraduate studies in China before undertaking her PhD at the University of Melbourne.

“Both the Murray Darling Basin and the Yellow River face issues of water scarcity, climate change and ecosystem degradation. It is important to compare both, a connection between these two countries is essential to designing different policy options to choose from,” she said.

ARC Future Fellow pioneering a new approach to water resources management In the coming years, Dr Wei aspires to establish a new discipline of water resources management – Social Hydrology. Building on her current research, Dr Wei hopes to incorporate sociological factors with engineering solutions, highlighting the importance of people in public policy.

“I hope to write a book about it in the coming years, understanding the relationship between humans and water.”

Increasing ties between Australian and Chinese researchers and broadening approaches to water resources also factor into Dr Wei’s future plans.

“We have a good start,” she said, “but there is a long way to go.”