Dr Ashley Wright, 2018 Laurenson Medal winner, has developed a technique to revolutionalise the reliability of flood forecasts.

“The accurate synthesis of rainfall measurements and estimates that are representative of rainfall coverage over a given catchment will lead to greater rainfall forecasting skill. Improved rainfall forecasts can be leveraged to increase streamflow forecasting skill,” explained Ashley.

Using streamflow observations, Ashley’s technique estimates both rainfall-run off model parameters and rainfall time series, along with their uncertainty. Traditionally, representative rainfall across a catchment is very difficult to measure, because of its high spatial and temporal variability (that is, rainfall can be heavier in one part of a catchment than in another, and the magnitude of the rainfall can vary greatly). But Ashley’s technique will result in more reliable predictions of hydrologic behaviours in river catchments.

The Laurenson Medal recognises excellence in research, but also the recipient’s ability to communicate their findings to industry and to facilitate industry adoption of the research outputs. During his studies, Ashley interned at the Bureau of Meteorology and he was affiliated with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC (BNHCRC). These valuable relationships helped him develop his technique and communicate his findings. His work has been published in leading journals from the European Geosciences Union, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. He also regularly communicated his research through Research Advisory Forums and the AFAC conferences.

“Winning the medal has given me confidence that my work is being well received,” said Ashley. “I am currently working with the Australian Indonesian Centre (AIC) to develop flood mitigation infrastructure adaptation scenarios for Bogor, Indonesia. I am also working with the Revitalising Informal Settlements and their Environments (RISE) project to develop flood mitigation strategies. In the future, I will continue working with the BNHCRC to improve flood-forecasting skill using remote sensing data.”

“Ashley’s work has continued a long tradition of research in catchment hydrological processes to more reliably predict occurrence of floods as well as catchment water resources pioneered by Eric Laurenson. Ensuring excellence in research but also facilitating the innovative use of this research among practitioners has been the hallmark of past recipients and Ashley is very deserving of this accolade,” said Professor Tony Wong, CEO of the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities.

The Eric Laurenson Medal, sponsored by the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, is awarded annually to a recent Monash University PhD graduate who has demonstrated excellence in areas such as the quality of their PhD thesis; the potential of their research to seed changes to practice in water science, engineering, or management; and the recipient’s ability to communicate their research findings to industry.

Eric Laurenson, a former Chair of Civil Engineering (Water Resources) at Monash University, was an influential figure in engineering hydrology in Australia. He made major contributions to many areas of flood estimation research including frequency analysis, dam safety, design losses, flood routing, and joint probability of factors affecting runoff generation and flow.