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USQ climatologist leads global climate change research

At a time where climate change was nowhere close to dominating the evening news, an inquisitive aviation meteorologist started to take notice of rainfall patterns. He then decided to read up on El Niño and climate patterns during the quiet hours of his night shift at Brisbane Airport. Fast track through a couple of new degrees, a PhD completed while working full-time, and a career migration to climatology, Prof Roger Stone had made significant inroads into an up-and-coming area of research.

Professor Roger Stone

Professor Roger Stone

Now the Director of the Australian Centre for Sustainable Catchments and a USQ Professor in Climatology and Water Resources, Prof Stone entered the realm of climate change when its impact was only partially on the cusp of international attention. It is perhaps apt that his role is now at the forefront of global climate change research, with his appointment to lead a United Nations (UN) research program in climate change and extreme weather events.

The pioneering Professor was selected to lead the international program during a recent UN Commission for Agricultural Meteorology congress meeting.

“The program aims to provide practical examples to the UN on how practices should be changed so that communities around the world are much better prepared for the shocks that are likely to come with climate change.

“That could be a whole range of different examples, from typhoons in Vietnam, drought in West Africa, to floods in Pakistan.”

He views his UN appointment as a double-faceted success.

“It’s harnessing a lot of the work that we’ve been doing, not only at USQ, but also in government, in the DPI, CSIRO and other universities, so we are seen internationally as a zone of excellence.”

Prof Stone encourages university students to follow their passion and not to be afraid to enter the unknown.

“Listen to those hidden messages that you get somewhere in your life. Be prepared to study areas that aren’t quite mainstream yet, because in 10 or 15 years they could be the most important study that the world needs.”

A firm believer that community involvement is a two-way street, Prof Stone affirms that local communities can benefit from international research.

“I’ve been working with the local Southeast Queensland community since 1990,” he explains.

“The farmers here are now communicating directly with some of the farmers I have met through the UN meeting. There is a lot people can learn when you form a global community.

“You have to keep looking outside your own square and not be scared to travel and to work and connect around the world.”