Victorian Landcare Magazine - Spring 2017, Issue 70

Dr Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award - Bret Ryan

p16 Members hero

Above: Bret Ryan (holding the trophy) with members of the Corangamite CMA Land Health Program Steering Committee accepting the Environment and Sustainability Award at the 2015 Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards.

Bret Ryan grew up in Colac and originally qualified as an aquatic scientist. He had a rewarding career in marine biology until a tree change called. A move to the small Otways town of Swan Marsh saw Bret instantly involved in the local community, including the Stoney Rises Landcare Group.

Bret Ryan will use the Dr. Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award for a study tour of the Murray Darling Basin.

Above: Bret Ryan will use the Dr. Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award for a study tour of the Murray Darling Basin.

Bret now works as the Land Health Manager with the Corangamite CMA. He has 17 years experience as a professional scientist and project manager, having worked as a local government biodiversity officer, an environmental consultant and a Landcare facilitator.

Under Bret’s management the Corangamite CMA Land Health Program has seen 204 farming entities adopting sustainable practice change across more than 75,000 hectares of land. In the area of soil acidity, 92 per cent of participants have indicated a change in management practice. The program’s successes in soil health were acknowledged at the 2015 Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards.

Bret attributes the success of the program to the use of local knowledge produced from local trial data. This means farmers are able to closely relate to the soil types and farming systems under investigation.

Bret has demonstrated exceptional abilities in natural resource management, sustainable agriculture, project management, policy and planning, and government and community relationships. He works closely with a variety of different groups from federal agencies to industry bodies, Landcare groups and landholders.

“Helping farmers adopt better management practices is very satisfying work. The program is ultimately about land health, but really it is about people,” Bret said.

Bret will use the Dr. Sidney Plowman Travel and Study Award for a study tour of the Murray Darling Basin. He will look at the lessons learnt and innovations applied when trying to balance environmental, agricultural and social needs around water allocation and modernisation across the basin.

Bret aims to apply the knowledge and experience gained from the study tour to an innovative pilot project to modernise on-farm water capture and storage in dryland farming areas of the Corangamite region.

Bret believes changes in water management practice would help landholders in terms of water security for their farming businesses, in a changing climate, and provide benefits for waterways and water bodies.