Katie Johnson learned that working in extension could feel like being a modern Sherlock Holmes-inspired soil detective during her year participating in the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program.
Placed with the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee (MRCCC), Katie worked with many people within the catchment who were interested in stopping gully erosion before it stole more of their land, but required guidance on which gullies they should target.
“I have been using laser (LiDAR) scans to create a 3D image of the ground surface. By comparing two scans done at different times, we can make a computer play ‘spot the difference’. This shows where soil has been lost and accumulated, and how much,” Katie said.
“The MRCCC can use this information when working with farmers to figure out which gullies are rapidly eroding and high priority, as well as what needs to be done to halt their advance.”
Katie feels the structure of the traineeship was crucial in enabling her gully remediation work. She had some prior experience with LiDAR, but gained an understanding around what was important to farmers and soil conservation.
“The traineeship provided so much technical training, but my main support was the chance to work with and be encouraged by experienced extension staff, mentors and farmers. Coming out of my Environmental Science Degree, I had heard a lot about agriculture but not a lot from agriculture. My eyes have been opened to what people can and want to achieve with their land. I have been humbled and inspired by the farmers’ creative and practical ideas for keeping soil on their property.”
Katie’s chance to meet extension staff and farmers was not limited to those from her workplace, attending the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) conference with other trainees’ sparked ideas based on practices in other regions and industries.
“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend professional events such as APEN. I’ve met many kind people who have been able to give me a leg up over obstacles, and I hope to be able to do the same in return throughout my career.”
After graduating from the one-year program, Katie has accepted an ongoing position with the MRCCC supporting the dairy and grazing industries to improve the quality of water reaching drinking water offtakes on the Mary River.
“The skills and connections that I have gained through this program will be incredibly valuable in setting me up for this next leg of the journey. I continue to be very grateful for the chance to support agriculture while improving the quality of water flowing through the Mary River catchment and out to the Great Barrier Reef.”
The Agricultural Extension Work Placement program is delivered by the Rural Jobs and Skills Alliance (led by QFF) and funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.