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Sarah Bourke

Vice President - Australasia and the Pacific


Dr Sarah Bourke is a Hydrogeologist with expertise in environmental tracers, surface water – groundwater interaction and contaminant hydrogeology. Sarah is a Lecturer and Course Coordinator of the Master of Hydrogeology in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Western Australia. She has extensive links to government and industry and a demonstrated capacity to deliver high-quality, practical outcomes through collaborative research projects.

Sarah completed her Bachelor of Earth Science at Flinders University, with studies in Japan and the USA. She completed an Honours year at the University of Western Australia before working as a Hydrogeologist for the state government for five years. Her PhD, through Flinders University, was a collaborative research project with Rio Tinto Iron Ore applying environmental tracers to understand surface water – groundwater interaction in areas modified by mining. Her presentation on this work was awarded best presentation by an early career Hydrogeologist at the IAH congress in 2013.

Following her PhD Sarah worked as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, studying potential impacts on groundwater from mining and agricultural operations overlying clay-rich sediments. She returned to the University of Western Australia in Perth, where she works as a passionate advocate for Hydrogeology practice, research and training.

Sarah has been engaged with IAH for 15 years and is the Chair of the Western Australian chapter. She is a member the Australian Water Association and Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences Australasia. When not thinking about groundwater, Sarah sings in choirs and potters in the garden.

Personal statement

Growing up in the karst south-east of South Australia, I became acutely aware from a young age of the value of groundwater and the risks posed to it by human activities. As course coordinator for one of the few Master of Hydrogeology programs in the world, I share that passion with others, helping to train the next generation of hydrogeologists. Being the Chair of the Western Australian Branch of the IAH also allows me to engage with non-academics and other stakeholders in the groundwater community. In these roles I have consistently demonstrated a willingness and capacity to advocate for groundwater resources and practitioners.

I believe the IAH community must expand through awareness and inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds including gender, racial and socio-economic diversity. As VP, in consultation with National Chapters, I would continue the focus on diversity of membership and diversity of voices. It’s not enough to have diverse members: they also need to be visible and heard. The rapid uptake of online meeting and communication tools during the COVID crisis is one way we can be more inclusive. Some chapters are already streaming their events and I believe this can be a powerful tool for reaching a broader audience, and engaging across state and national chapters. We will be able to more easily share fellowship and knowledge across the region, and more widely.

This is a unique time to be a part of a global organization, as countries emerge from isolation and re-focus their efforts on environmental stewardship. IAH members will play a vital role in ensuring that groundwater resources take their rightful place among competing priorities. I am honoured to play a leadership role over the coming four years as VP for the Australasia and the Pacific.