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In profile: Kate Judith, PhD Student

When considering water research, topics that fall into the science and engineering disciplines are usually first to spring to mind. While these topics are incredibly important, there are other aspects of water research that are quietly being explored in other schools across the university: unique and unconventional topics that consider water and related themes from entirely new perspectives.

Kate Judith is one of UNSW’s PhD students who works in this space, working from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences on an innovative, interdisciplinary topic. Her research is focused on mangroves: specifically, the space that mangroves occupy ‘between’ the water and land—and how this is significant from a philosophical perspective.Kate Judith, PhD Student

“I love the way that mangroves are ‘in-between’ in so many ways, and how they create such a diverse world in the dynamic space they occupy,” says Kate.
“I bring the very grounded betweenness of these urban mangroves into conversation with theoretical engagements with interstitiality.”

Kate’s education spans many disciplines, having completed a Bachelor of Science, a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Environmental Science, Master of Education and Graduate Diploma of Education. She says that this is indicative of her lengthy search for ways to connect environmental sciences with the humanities.

The idea for her project occurred at a time when she was becoming fascinated with the mangroves in her neighbourhood. At the same time, she realised that many of her favourite philosophers suggest that ‘the between’ is an important space for thinking in relational and ecological ways. For Kate, these two elements presented an opportunity to combine humanities-style approach to understanding with environmental science and observation.

“I work with the mangroves of Sydney’s Cooks and Georges River estuaries to explore philosophical approaches to being ‘between’,” says Kate. “These are very urban mangroves that are tanged into the history and culture of Sydney and interact in interesting ways with human lives every day. This locates my research within an ecology that includes humans, but isn’t about or centred on them”.

When asked about how her research may be applied, Kate says that with theoretical work it is always difficult to specify short-term applications—but she is excited about its potential impact.

“I hope my project provides new approaches for thinking about the concept of betweenness, and that these will be applicable within a wide range of contexts. I also see it as providing an example of research that avoids being centred upon a human perspective. I think many areas of research are interested in ways of doing that now.”

I hope my project provides new approaches for thinking about the concept of betweenness

Kate Judith, PhD Student

It was after participating in a course run by the UNSW Environmental Humanities group in 2016 that Kate decided to pursue her PhD at UNSW. She said she felt drawn to the approaches and conversations that were taking place, and has been fortunate to have her research supervised by Professor Matthew Kearnes and Associate Professor Simon Lumsden – two established and respected academics who also specialise in topics that straddle social and environmental issues.

Kate says that sharing her work and participating in related conversations are importanti to her, so, throughout her doctorate, she has presented at many conferences and written several papers. This has inspired many new ideas—including some exciting collaborations—so she will develop some of these further upon completion of her PhD and adapt her dissertation into a book.

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