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About Us

Meet the team behind Nature Braid

Grass field with sheep grazing. Trees, water and mountains in the background.

Just like our model framework, the Nature Braid team is small but has a global impact and reach.

Although based in Aotearoa New Zealand, our team has international expertise and experience in many diverse fields of study and study fields.

We are a team with years of scientific research in the fields of biophysical and geospatial modelling, hydrology, soil water and physics, soil erosion, biodiversity, conservation biology, remote sensing, ecology, and environmental sciences. We are passionate about people, making efforts to engage stakeholders in the modelling process because local knowledge is key to understanding landscapes and their sustainable development, and because we value the connections between the environment and people. Trying to understand one without the other is an exercise in futility.

When not writing reports, talking to stakeholder groups and policy-making, making data and models communicate with each other, or teaching, the team can be found enjoying a meal and a musical together.

Core Team

Bethanna Jackson headshot

Bethanna Jackson, PhD

Lead Scientist and Architect

Bethanna Jackson is the lead scientist and developer of the land management decision support framework and software package LUCI. She was Associate Professor in hydrology at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW).

Her commitment to advancing prediction and communication of the impacts of land management on natural capital provision has influenced policy as well as the international research community. She is regularly invited to speak to policy makers, and serves as an expert on several international groups tasked with improving ecosystem service predictions, including a role with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) helping to advance the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting.

Bethanna holds a PhD in Hydrogeochemical Modelling from Imperial College London. Her other research interests include integration of environmental science concepts and models with information theory and signal processing.

Google Scholar

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Rubianca Benavidez

Biophysical and Geospatial Scientist

Rubianca Benavidez has applied the Nature Braid to a tropical watershed in the Philippine to assess the impacts of land cover on ecosystem services and soil erosion as part of her PhD research.

Her thesis work has also assisted in developing various components in NB: soil erosion model, floodplain inundation, and rainfall-runoff modelling. She is currently involved in the programming and development side of NB, mainly through Python and MATLAB.

Rubianca graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Environmental Science, and did her undergraduate thesis on atmospheric modelling and air pollution. As part of a partnership between Victoria University of Wellington and the University of New South Wales, she was able to do her Masters in Conservation Biology in both New Zealand and Australia, with an internship in remote sensing and identifying flood events in wetlands.

Google Scholar

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Dang Anh Nguyet

Geospatial and Biophysical Scientist

Anh furthered Nature Braid development through applying the model to the Vietnam Mekong Delta in order to support sustainable management of ecosystem services mainly through nature-based water resources management. Her aim with her PhD was to use NB to map multiple services and identify where synergies exist for win-win solutions that ultimately contribute to sustainability of the delta and local farmers' well-being.

Anh’s research interest is the application of geographic information system and remote sensing in natural resources management. Anh obtained BSc (Honors) in Environmental Sciences from the Vietnam National University (2009) and MSc in Geo‐information science and earth observation application from the University of Twente, The Netherlands (2012). Before moving to VUW for her doctoral project, she worked as a research associate at Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Google Scholar


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Raiatea Barlow-Kameta

MSc thesis student

Raiatea is doing a Masters in Physical Geography under the supervision of Bethanna Jackson and Deborah Maxwell that uses LUCI in the Marokopa area, Waikato Region. 

This project looks to build a picture of how flooding at Marokopa will change in the coming years. She plans to work with the Marokopa community, so that they are a part of this process, from the beginning until the end. Science communication is a large part of this project, because the local knowledge informs the historical record of local flooding that informs our modelling. Such inter-disciplinary research must focus not only on the results, but the accountability of the research to the community, and part of this is making sure the project is well understood. She plans to outline the impact climate change will have on Marokopa flooding in two ways. First, by modelling flood, erosion and nutrient leaching mitigation landscape features (that impact how water passes through the catchment) and inundation (scenarios of flood extent). With the first, we use GIS to map how soil, and land cover features act to direct, add or remove water from the catchment. The second requires a historic record, based on local knowledge, to inform rainfall-flow-flood extent relationships for floodplain inundation modelling under different emissions scenarios.

She is most interested in the use of GIS and modelling to understand different earth systems, whether they be sediment denudation (erosion and sediment transport), hydrology or even deep earth processes. She is also passionate about the earth, climate and natural hazard sciences and science communication, for the betterment and protection of our people.

Raiatea holds a Bachelor of Science in Geology and Geography from the Victoria University of Wellington.

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Thuy Thi Nguyen

PhD Candidate

Thuy Thi Nguyen is currently studying at the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering, University of Canterbury.

Her project is using LUCI to design and assess climate responsive adaptation solutions at the boundary of ecological and civil engineering with the case study in the Ōtākaro/Avon River, Christchurch.

She is involved into the development of LUCI for the urban areas and aims to support the implementation of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Area Plan in the future.

Her research interest is urban hydrology and ecological services. Thuy holds a Bachelor of Hydrology from Vietnam National University (Vietnam, 2008), and a Master of Environmental Science and Management from University of New England (Australia, 2015).

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Michelle Schurmann

MSc thesis student

Michelle Schurrmann is currently completing a Master of Science in Physical Geography under the supervision of Bethanna Jackson and Ken Breen (Plant and Food Research Limited) that is looking at further improving the estimation of crop evapotranspiration in LUCI.

Her Master’s thesis will focus on apple and grape crops in the Hawke’s Bay region. This research aims to develop a better understanding of how different orchard designs (canopy designs, row width and orientation etc.) affect canopy light interception (which drives crop productivity), and how this ultimately affects crop evapotranspiration and crop water use. She will also explore whether variables such as canopy light interception can be collected through remote sensing techniques.

Her main research interests are improving the sustainability and productivity of New Zealand’s horticultural industries, coupled with using environmental resources such as water efficiently, as well as incorporating simulation modelling and advancing technologies such as remote sensing. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography and Ecology in 2016.


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Stuart Easton

MSc thesis student (completed) and Research Assistant

Stuart Easton’s Masters in GIS thesis extended the functionality and improved the usability of the beta version of SLIM: the Spatially-explicit LUCI Irrigation Model.

The SLIM model  is custom-designed to work within LUCI so it reflects the effects of irrigation. SLIM produces maps to show how efficient and effective an irrigation programme can be in terms of water use. His key activities involved scripting for automated map outputs, and further integrating SLIM with LUCI.

Stuart holds a BSc in Environmental Studies from Victoria University of Wellington. He has experience in orchard management and has spent time as an intern in Wellington City Council’s spatial business intelligence unit.

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Tapuwa Marapara

MSc thesis student (completed) and Research Assistant

Tapuwa Marapara used LUCI to as part of his PhD thesis supervised by Bethanna Jackson and Stephen Hartley. Tapuwa evaluated using trees as a restoration and flood mitigation tool in a forested wetlands. He is now assisting with improving how LUCI considers vegetation.

Tapuwa holds a Bachelor of Science (Hon) (Agronomy) from Midlands State University (Zimbabwe, 2008), a Master of Science (Forest Ecosystems, Nature and Society) from Copenhagen University (Denmark, 2010), and a Master of Science (Conservation and Land Management) from Bangor University (United Kingdom, 2011).

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Martha Trodahl

MSc thesis student (completed) and Research Assistant

Martha Trodahl was part of the LUCI team from 2011 to 2018. Martha has contributed to a variety of sub-projects including research into the Upper Karamu Catchment in Hawkes Bay, and a comparative study of UK and Welsh agri-environmental schemes.

Her PhD focused on improving and parameterising LUCI’s nitrogen and phosphorus water quality modelling, particularly nutrient export from rural productive landscapes in New Zealand. Martha is supported by a Callaghan Innovation Research and Development Fellowship, and Ravensdown, a New Zealand farmer co-operative. She now works for Ravensdown as a Senior Technical Specialist.

Martha holds an MSc in Physical Geography from Victoria University of Wellington. She is particularly interested in “source-to-sink” problems and untangling the web of variables that influence the export of macronutrients, sediments and other contaminants from catchments.

Although not from an agricultural background, she is keen to assist farmers and land managers to improve environmental performance while maintaining the ability to produce. She and her family are currently working on improving the productivity of their own 600m2 “urban farm”.

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Maggie Rogers

MSc thesis student (completed)

Maggie completed her Master of Science at Victoria University of Wellington focusing on water quality and the use of the predictive land use model LUCI under the supervision of Bethanna Jackson and Mairéad de Roiste.

The project evaluated LUCI’s ability to manage nutrient losses to waterways and explore a range of potential mitigation scenarios that could achieve environmental benefits.

During her studies she developed a strong interest in New Zealand’s agricultural sector and as a result joined Ravensdown in November 2018 as part of the Development Program. From there, Maggie became part of the Ravensdown Environmental team as a Farm Environmental Advisor based in Canterbury and looks forward to helping New Zealand farmers in the environmental space.

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Alicia Taylor

MSc thesis student (completed)

Alicia Taylor used LUCI as part of her Masters thesis under the supervision of Bethanna Jackson and Alister Metherell. Her research assessed the sensitivity of LUCI to soil, slope, and farm management practices.

Her interest in the agricultural/environmental sector has led her to want to help farmers comply with environmental regulations at catchment and farm scales.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Science, and Master of Science (Hons) in Physical Geography from the Victoria University of Wellington.


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Stephanie Tomscha, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Stephanie Tomscha is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Wetlands for People and Place, an interdisciplinary collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Biological Sciences and School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

She uses LUCI to better understand ecosystem service trade-offs, especially in a wetland restoration context. Her background includes using a wide range of approaches to measure and map human-environment interactions, including participatory mapping, in-person interviews, and biophysical mapping of ecosystem services. She is particularly interested in how ecosystem services change over time.

She received her PhD in Forest and Conservation Science from the University of British Columbia in 2016 and her BA Biology from Luther College in 2007. Prior to joining the Wetlands for People and Place team, she was part of the Canadian Network for Aquatic Ecosystem Services.

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Keith Miller

GIS Developer

Keith Miller is the lead GIS developer on the LUCI project. He's been solving problems using Python (mostly arcpy) in the team for more than two years and is passionate about making LUCI's code well-structured, fully-featured and as bug-free as possible.

He holds an Honours degree in Mathematics and Computation from Loughborough University, UK, plus a Postgraduate Diploma in Geographic Information Science from Victoria University.

Previously, Keith solved different types of problems as a website developer for over 10 years using JavaScript, HTML and CSS. He can also juggle four balls and ride a unicycle (although not at the same time).

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Amy Thomas, PhD

Research Scientist

Amy Thomas is a research assistant at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Bangor. She is involved in the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Project (GMEP) applying LUCI to the whole of Wales, and is also involved in development of the model, with a focus on carbon and representation of soil.

Her main research interests are soil physics, greenhouse gas balance, ecosystem services, coding and ArcGIS.

Amy has a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia. Her thesis involved development and application of a process based model to simulate impacts of land use change on ecosystem services, with a focus on perennial energy crops, including GIS analysis of how they might be incorporated into existing energy systems. She also holds an MRes in Management and Modelling of Water from the Civil Engineering department at the University of Liverpool.

Amy has experience in consultancy work with Ambiental, simulating depth based flood maps for the UK. Additional qualifications include an MSc in Palaeoanthropology with a focus on primate social behaviour research and cognitive archaeology.

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Kremena Burkhard, PhD

Kremena is presently involved in the collaborative project VIWA (Virtual Water Values): Multiscale Monitoring of Global Water Resources and Options for their Efficient and Sustainable Use.

Her main responsibilities include the development of water use sustainability indicators stepping on existing frameworks and data availability (from models and other), in order to address the water-related UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

She has previously been involved in the development and testing of LUCI for a case study in Bulgaria, the first LUCI case study in continental Europe. Furthermore, Kremena explored the possibilities of using LUCI in the water and environmental accounting activities within the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) and other accounting frameworks (as Corporate Water Accounting and Water Footprint).

Her main research interests are are the implementation of different spatial analysis techniques, models, other tools and different data sources for the spatial assessment of ecosystem services and sustainability indicators and the ways they are influenced by changes in the socio-ecological system.

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Ruzica Dadic, PhD

Research Scientist

Ruzica Dadic (Research Fellow) works at Victoria University of Wellington’s Antarctic Research Centre. Ruzica’s research focuses on different aspects of the energy and mass balance of the cryosphere.

Her work for the LUCI project aims to improve our understanding of snow hydrology, extending the applicability of the model beyond temperate climatic zones.

Ruzica holds a PhD from ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

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Julie Deslippe

Senior Research Scientist

Julie Deslippe is the deputy Director of the Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology and Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences. Julie is a community ecologist with research interests in plant-soil systems and ecosystem ecology.

Julie’s research focuses on how plants and their associated communities of microbes respond to land use and climate change, and how these changes feedback to affect ecosystem structure and function. Her research enables better conservation and restoration of land and fresh water systems and improved management of natural, agricultural, forested and urban environments.

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Mairéad de Roiste, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Mairéad de Roiste leads the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) programmes at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research interests involve GIS capability and human use of geographic information, with particular expertise in public participation.

She is developing a cultural mapping approach to include features of community and historical interest within LUCI. These features can have a profound impact on whether possible land use scenarios are acceptable to land owners and the community.

Mairead is collaborating with iwi and hapū (tribes/subtribes of New Zealand’s indigenous Māori population) to enable LUCI to honour kaitiakitanga (guardianship) principles and customary use.

Mairéad gained her PhD from from Trinity College, Dublin.

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Bridget Emmett, PhD

Senior Research Scientist and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology lead

Professor Bridget Emmett is Head of Site for the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology station in Bangor, Wales.

She is a biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist with a background in pollution, land management and climate change science. Her research interests include the impact of land management on soils and hydrology, and the role of nitrogen in ecological systems.

Bridget leads the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme. This programme uses LUCI to pull together a wide variety of information to inform environmental and economic decision making. This work covers water, soil, biodiversity, cultural factors and econometrics. She has also led or contributed to other projects that use LUCI to make the best possible land management decisions.

Bridget holds a PhD in Soil Ecology from the University of Exeter. She is a Fellow of the Society of Biology, a Member of the British Ecological Society, and a Member of the British Soil Science Society.

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Kevin Norton, PhD

Senior Research Scientist

Kevin Norton is a geomorphologist and geochemist, and a member of the Physical Geography faculty at Victoria University of Wellington. His research focuses on understanding and determining processes changing the landscape, such as erosion rates, landslides, slips and soil formation.

Kevin is an authority on how planetary surfaces form and evolve. He draws on expertise across the geosciences, and uses a variety of sophisticated tools including cosmogenic nuclides, geochemical tracers, GIS, surveying, and numerical modelling.

Kevin’s expertise in erosion is greatly enhancing our understanding of how people affect their landscape with respect to freshwater quality, primary production and hazards.

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David Robinson

Senior Soil Scientist

David Robinson is a senior soil scientist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. His research focuses on land, soil and water management, soil natural capital and ecosystem service framework development.

His key role in the LUCI team is providing input and advice on ecosystem service evaluation, soils and soil hydraulics.

David’s contributions to soil science have been recognized by several international awards, for soil physics and soil water management and conservation, awarded by the Soil Science Society of America, for which he was recently selected as fellow. As part of the International Year of Soil he has provided leadership serving as a co-lead author for the world soil resources report compiled for the UN’s intergovernmental technical panel on soils.

David holds a PhD in soil physics from the Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxon, and University. of Ulster, United Kingdom.

Past contributors

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Shaun Astbury

GIS/Python Developer

Shaun Astbury is a spatial analyst at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), based in Bangor, Wales. He contributes to the core development of the LUCI toolbox, acquisition of input data, and the scoping of novel techniques and applications for the continued expansion of the project.

He has over six years’ experience of working with the ESRI ArcGIS software package and other GIS systems, and of writing code with the Python programing language.

Shaun obtained an MRes in Ecology and Environmental Management from University of York, UK, with a focus on spatial and quantitative analysis. Shaun has a particular interest in working with open source GIS solutions, and has an ongoing fascination in cartography and data visualisation.

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David Cooper, PhD

Research Scientist

Based at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in the United Kingdom, David Cooper is a Senior Environmental Modeller with a background in mathematics.

David worked closely with Bethanna Jackson applying the LUCI model to the Bassenthwaite catchment in a project funded by Natural England. His key research interests include water quality modelling, particularly in particle tracking techniques for the land component of the hydrological cycle.

David holds a holds a PhD in Statistics from the University of Wales. He is a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society and a Chartered Mathematician.

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Damien Farrelly, PhD

Research Assistant

Damien Farrelly is an environmental engineer who worked on developing the carbon accounting ecosystem service within LUCI for application in New Zealand.

His work mainly involved assembling look-up tables for LUCI on soil carbon and land cover, based on tier 1 IPCC defaults initially (climate, soil, land cover, land management). This was followed by collating more explicit, local data obtained using New Zealand’s Land Use and Carbon Analysis System (LUCAS) methods for tier 2 IPCC reporting. 

Damien has a keen interest in carbon accounting, carbon mitigation, climate change, environment and sustainability. He has worked as an environmental consultant and has research experience in carbon mitigation using microalgae and biochar.

Damien has a PhD in Biosystems (Environmental) Engineering from University College Dublin, Ireland on the topic of biological carbon mitigation using microalgae. He also has a BE in Biosystems Engineering capturing a range of subjects in food engineering, environmental engineering and renewable energy.

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Deborah Maxwell, PhD

Senior Research Scientist and Hydrologist

Deborah Maxwell is passionate about understanding the physical processes that change and shape the landscape and communicating these in a way that can inform decision making processes, leading to more sustainable outcomes.

With previous corporate experience, specific expertise in LUCI, and wide ranging interests in numerous aspects of ecosystem services (hydrology, soils, conservation), Deborah plays a key role in developing and refining LUCI, specifically its hydrological and temporal features.

Deborah holds a PhD in Hydrology from Victoria University of Wellington. Her thesis developed a predictive rainfall-runoff model for the Lake Taupō catchment, requiring integration between natural processes and the hydro-schemes and controls in the area.

Deborah’s other research interests include the development of real-time flow forecasting models incorporating meteorological forecasts and physically constrained data assimilation. She is a member of the New Zealand Hydrological Society and the American Geophysical Union.

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Orane Reuland

GIS Web Developer

Orane Reuland is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist. She has worked across many aspects of the field: from technical to project management, from backend to frontend, from database to imagery analysis.

She is an experienced trainer, has undertaken development of web mapping, and written GIS procedures for promote successful deployment of GIS technology.

Orane implemented ArcGis Server on the Cloud for LUCI and developed some python scripts for the project. She defined and tested multiple solutions relating to data storage, the implementation of a web map, and geoprocessing services.

Orane holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering (orientation physics) from the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland, and a Continuing Education Diploma, Ecology and Environmental Sciences from the Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland.