Bex Dunn has always loved the water. She loves sailing, and originally wanted to be a yacht designer. The global financial crisis dashed that plan, but Bex found her way back to the water’s edge. She is now an Earth Observation Scientist at Geoscience Australia, where she uses satellite imagery to monitor Australia’s wetlands.
“Using satellites to see what is happening on the planet is what makes my job a space industry job,” says Bex. “We’re looking back at Australia from space.”
Water is a precious resource, and wetlands play a critical role in Australia’s ecosystem. Bex creates tools that help government departments and other clients see how healthy wetlands are. They also observe how they are changing over time.
Bex mainly uses imagery from the USGS/NASA Landsat program and the European Commission’s Sentinel satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth, capturing imagery from every point over a number of days. The Landsat image archives date back to 1987, helping scientists monitor the evolution of the landscape.
“It’s really useful for tracking the evolution of cropping in Australia, or changes in water management,” says Bex. “We basically drive a time machine.”
Bex enjoys knowing there are always other planets to observe. “If we run out of cool things to look at on Earth, there's always Mars,” she says. “There's plenty of water in the universe.”
- Bex grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. She first visited Australia as a NZ delegate for the National Youth Science Forum in 2003.
- The following year, Bex moved to Sydney to enrol in the Bachelor of Engineering in Naval Architecture with Honours at the University of New South Wales.
- Bex graduated in 2008. The global financial crisis meant there was not a lot of demand for graduate yacht designers. Instead, she moved to Tasmania to do a PhD, but ended up bushwalking and sailing instead.
- In 2014 Bex went back to uni to do a second honours year, this time in physical oceanography. She also volunteered with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 2015.
- Bex joined the graduate program at Geoscience Australia in 2016. Her graduate rotations included measuring gravity, tsunami modelling and mapping marine sediments.
- In 2018 Bex was offered a permanent role as an Earth Observation Scientist. She is now part of the Digital Earth Australia team. In her role, she develops tools for mapping and monitoring Australian wetlands.