Cranfield University reader in Environmental Systems Engineering Dr Monica Rivas Casado FCIWEM C.WEM CEng is a new Chartered Water and Environmental Manager, Fellow and Chartered Engineer from our September 2021 application deadline.
Below we learn more about Monica's career, what CIWEM membership means to them and their advice to anyone considering applying.
Years of experience
15 years in environment sector
MSc – Environmental Water Management, Cranfield University
PhD – Geostatistics, Cranfield University
What's your day to day job role?
I am a Scientist, of which my job requires me to lead and deliver multiple research projects. I work on really exciting topics, primarily looking at how we can use emerging technologies for good. For example, at the moment I am looking at how we can use drones to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from sludge treatment plants: Development of a UAV-based monitoring framework for greenhouse gas emissions from sludge treatment centres. In the past, I have looked at how we can use the same technology to enhance flood emergency response in UK and India: UAVs for flood emergency response. Other exciting projects have taken me to look at coral habitats and how we can use semi-autonomous systems to monitor them: Coral reef mapping in Mozambique.
My day-to-day activities require me to design novel solutions to collect and analyse data. I work with my team to better understand the needs of our sponsors (public, private and third sector) and design suitable technological solutions. It requires lots of meetings (online these days!) with national and international partners to agree and discuss ways forward to successfully deliver each research project.
Under my role as Environment Programme Director, Cranfield University, I also coordinate five MSc courses (Environmental Management for Business, Environmental Engineering, Geographical Information Management, Global Environmental Change and Sustainability). I am fortunate enough to meet and liaise with students from across the world on a daily basis.
Part of my day-to-day activities also includes engagement with PhD students in Africa, through the The Sue White Fund. This is an exciting and successful programme to support students researching water and sanitation, catchment processes and water management projects in Africa. It is financed by a generous donation to the University made by a former Professor.
What inspired you towards a career in this sector?
I have always been motivated and passionate about all aspects of environmental sciences. I believe that we are facing substantial environmental challenges driven by anthropogenic activity, as demonstrated at COP26. I always wanted to follow a career path that allowed me to work with people to address these challenges. I think my passion for environmental research has driven me to explore the academic career path further.
What is the most exciting part of your career?
I really enjoy meeting and working with people from all over the world. Together we work towards developing technological solutions that enable us to protect our environmental assets at national and international level. We get the chance to validate these solutions in real case scenarios at different spatial scales.
Another aspect that I like is the interaction with our students. I thoroughly enjoy working with our students all through the year, especially during group projects and individual MSc thesis projects. Group projects are usually driven by an industrial environmental challenge. I love to see how our students tackle the project and walk through this steep learning curve. The MSc thesis project is an individual piece of work also driven by industrial partners. I am always extremely grateful to see the motivation and passion of our students when they deliver these projects. In many cases, the solutions they provide result in scientific publications!
See for example:
Computational fluid dynamics simulations of water flow on a studded upstream eel pass - Ibnu Syihab - 2021 - River Research and Applications
A Mixed-Methods Investigation into Barriers for Sharing Geospatial and Resilience Flood Data in the UK
Combining Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Image Processing for Wastewater Treatment Plant Asset Inspection
I feel at peace when I see that we have the energy and support of our students to address the environmental challenges we are currently facing.
What is the greatest challenge the sector is facing?
From an environmental perspective, challenges can be identified at different levels. The frequency and intensity of extreme events is generating unprecedent flood and droughts. This is due to multiple underlying factors, including climate change, deforestation and inappropriate land management practices, amongst others.
Green house gas emissions are a recurrent challenge that we have not yet managed to control to the desired thresholds. The protection of our ecosystems and natural capital has become a priority at national and international level due to the increase in natural resources demand. The sustainable development goals clearly recognise the need to ensure available and sustainable management of water and sanitation, in addition to protecting life below water and on land. I guess there are too many to choose from.
We need to work together to minimise our footprint and we need people to develop effective solutions to address these challenges.
Why did you apply for Chartership and how will it support your career?
Over the last two decades, I have consciously contributed to addressing environmental challenges, from catchment management to greenhouse gas emissions, through a wide range of research projects. I have worked with organisations in the private, public and third sector on their priority environmental challenges to better understand the issues and devise and develop appropriate solutions.
Over the last three years, I have transferred my knowledge to professionals across the world through the direct management and coordination of the Environment Programme at Cranfield University. This is a well-established educational programme comprising five distinct MSc courses with a growing portfolio and outreach. I have contributed to shaping the vision, knowledge and environmental career prospects of over 100 students. In turn, graduates have made significant contributions to the environmental agenda, much like a ripple effect.
By becoming a CIWEM Fellow I have demonstrated I have made a significant contribution to addressing both water and environmental risks and challenges. This is an important milestone for me in my career. It provides external validation and recognition in relation to my environmental activities, help raise environmental awareness and act as a role model for other people wishing to pursue membership and fellowship of CIWEM.
I believe that through being an FCIWEM I will be able to increase the outreach of my knowledge transfer activity for more and bigger ripples to occur.
What advice would you give to someone considering starting out applying for Chartership?
I would encourage them to submit their application! The overall process is quite straight forward and CIWEM are always there to provide the required support.
The benefits are significant. A key message would be to ensure they focus their application on what they have specifically done under each of their roles. The panel is particularly interested in knowing exactly what they did and not so much about the outcome of the projects in itself. This is slightly difficult to pin down properly when preparing the presentation and the documentation, as in general, we do not communicate in such a way to an external audience..
Learn more about becoming a Chartered Water and Environmental Manager, Chartered Engineer or Fellow.
The next application deadline is 07 April 2022. Here you can find all of our 2022 application deadlines.