Q&A with Russell Richards

What did you study?

Environmental engineering at Griffith University and Chemical Engineering (PhD) at The University of Queensland.

If you were a plant, what species would you be and why?

A strawberry plant – I grew up on a strawberry farm and I feel that I still have bits of plant and soil embedded in my skin.

Why do you work on environmental problems?

Fascinated by environmental systems, especially coastal-marine systems. But also concerned that the environment doesn’t have a voice and is increasingly being ruined.

How did you come to contemplate decision analysis and why?

Natural progression from my modelling – I have always been interested in modelling the environment, but then it became about the relevance of modelling the environment i.e. for what purpose are you modelling it? As a complementary decision support tool was an obvious extension.

What did your career pathway to where you are now look like?

Strawberry picker (as a kid growing up), followed by a strong realisation of not want to be a horticulturist. An apprenticeship as a RADAR / Radio technician for the NZ Ministry of Defence followed by a few years repairing electronic equipment on fire panels (Melbourne) and fishing boats (Cairns). University to do a bachelor degree in Env Engineering in my mid-20s, a PhD with the Coastal CRC in the first decade of the 2000s, some contract teaching (Aberystwyth, Wales), post-doc work (Griffith Uni, UQ) and then teaching (now in the UQ Business School).

What is the hardest career decision you have made, and would you change it if you could?

Career has been a relatively steady, if a bit slow, progression without any bits I can think I would change. Probably would have preferred not to have developed a caffeine addiction along the way.

What is your best piece of advice for an early career researcher in the environmental sphere?

Surround yourself with good people.

If you had one wish, what environmental issue would you solve and why?

That the environment was given at least equal footing in all decisions. It’s often (IMHO) given the lowest preference.