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Segun Michael Adelana (Australia) – Source of Experience

“Above all, get involved, attend conferences as an early career scientist and be available to talk to experienced people in the profession.”

May 2019: Segun Michael Adelana from Australia is well-known among the IAH family and beyond. He currently works for a Victorian Government Department. Segun is a former member of IAH’s Council and continues to give time to our Association, being a mentor and ongoing supporter of our mentoring scheme.

Tell us a little about yourself….
For nearly 32 years now, after studying for a BSc in Geology, my work life and career has been around groundwater (from exploration and borehole siting in semi-arid to arid environments in Africa to teaching and research). I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed my work life better elsewhere.

Most of my work and project involvements have been in relation to water quality and water resource management. In the last 10 years (since moving to Australia to join my family) I have been involved in groundwater projects related to agriculture, water quality, and land use change impacts with a Government Department in my role as Research Scientist (Hydrogeology). The projects include 3D Groundwater Visualisation, SW Victoria Land Use impacts, Agriculture and Water Impacts in the Victorian MDB, Modelling Northern River Catchments Register B entries, CRC eWater – connecting landscapes to water resource impacts. Some of these appeared in published work like journals and conference papers, while others as technical reports. All have given me a strong drive towards integrated water resources management and kept my research interest on hydrology/processes of recharge and groundwater flow using isotopes & geochemical tools.

I am currently involved in a State Government Funded Project which had strong groundwater component (i.e. Nitrate transport and transformation in productive landscapes). We had two conference papers on this project and have just submitted an article to a journal for publication.

And your experiences of IAH?
It’s quite interesting how I came to IAH, although became a member of the Nigerian Association of Hydrogeologists long before coming to IAH. It all started with a research visit (with my German professor, Prof. Dr. Ebhart) to Heidelberg University, where a renowned professor of isotope hydrology headed a Department of Isotope Geochemistry/Geology. Then I was a DAAD stipendum at Technische Universitat Darmstadt (Germany) and my professor was seeking who could best help me with ideas to tackle my research questions in isotope hydrology. This led to my invitation to present at the local conference of the association, German Hydrogeologists Association (FIDG) held at Heidelberg University, which then gave me a chance to interact with highly experienced intellectuals. Earlier I was motivated by Dr Petr Vrbka (my very first hydrogeology lecturer) to present at a Geologists Conference in Paderborn (Germany) where I had first contact with many German professors and researchers working in the various fields of geology in Africa. These two meetings were spot-on and gave me the flavour of hydrogeology as a specialised field of geology, more than I had ever learnt in class. My continued interest led to Dr Vrbka paying for my IAH membership for 3 years (through the sponsored membership program).

A further milestone came in January 2004 when at my home university (where I lectured then in Geophysics and Hydrogeology) I got a phone call from Christine Colvin from South Africa. The conversation was on my nomination to run for the VP of IAH (sub-Saharan Africa) as she was the outgoing VP at that time. Sounding confused and inexperienced about such role and responsibilities that comes with it, she encouraged me to send my CV. I did and was later nominated and voted in to serve as VP (SSA) and member of IAH Council (I was re-elected in 2008 at the IAH conference in Japan). It was an interesting journey for me and I enjoyed working with the IAH executives and other regional VPs.

What would you say have been your career highlights, successes…?
Honestly, my career so far has been successful. I count myself lucky to have the kind of exposure the profession brought me and I am proud to be associated with IAH. I will do anything to promote its course because I remembered that at the start of my University education I had a choice between B.Sc in Mathematics and BSc in Geology (two offers at the same time). While my interest was in Mathematics and because I did not know what Geology entails, I signed the offer document for BSc Mathematics program but just before submitting the acceptance offer I had strong conviction to go back and pick up the Geology program offer. I have no regrets today for obeying my heart’s conviction.

Any career experiences you have learned from, that you are willing to share with others?
My experience in the IAH Council taught me a lot, especially in administrative and management skills. It was a big adjustment for me because I was not born an administrator or politician; I was not even a student executive member in my Uni days. But I came to know more people in the profession and I’m loving it!

What piece of equipment/software/item have you found the most useful/you could have managed without throughout your career?
GIS is one, I cannot write any journal paper or technical report (as required by my role) without generating geology maps or spatial maps in ArcGIS. It is a complete switch from cartographic and hand-generated maps in my student days. Also indispensable for me is AquaChem (a geochemistry software).

What are your concerns now or for the future, relating to groundwater/hydrogeology?
Pollution of the groundwater resource due to growing urbanisation and agricultural intensification.

What tips might you give to someone just starting out on their study or career?
Be motivated and passionate about your career.

As someone who might employ others, what skills or “special something” might you be looking for?
Passionate and highly motivated individuals, it is not not necessarily all about the qualifications; those motivated and looking to see what they can do, or bring.

What do you think those starting out should do to gain good experience?
Above all, get involved, attend conferences as an early career scientist and be available to talk to experienced people in the profession.

Your future plans? Aspirations?
I still love to write and read hydrogeology; I would probably go back to the classroom to help impact young lives about the profession.

What has being a member of IAH brought to you?
Contacts, experience, increased passion…

Is there anything IAH should be doing? Could do better?
I think the Forward Look has been one the greatest IAH achievements in terms of the future of the IAH. How to drive the energy of the young (probably through the Early Career program) should continue to be a priority.

Additional comments – matters you would like to raise?
The IAH Executives should encourage and motivate more young people into IAH leadership, it is a good way to sustain the achievements of the “foreparents of hydrogeology” in the right spirit.

Segun Michael Adelana