It was the North East community’s attachment to Winton Wetlands which inspired Mexican Luisa Perez-Mujica to complete her PhD on its rehabilitation and graduate from Charles Sturt University on Tuesday.
Luisa, who grew up in Mexico City, spent the last four years studying people's views on the re-establishment of the wetlands in order to develop a new socio-ecological approach to assess sustainability.
The restoration of the 8,750 hectare wetlands is the largest wetland restoration project in the southern hemisphere.
“For me, the most interesting thing was how the community was involved in the project, and how close the wetlands are to their hearts,” Luisa said.
“I looked at how tourists and the community interact with the environment, and I developed a series of indicators to evaluate the sustainability of the project.
“For example, how many tourists visit and what its economic impact is.”
Water returned to Winton Wetlands after heavy rainfall this year, attracting an influx of birdlife including the rare white-bellied sea eagle.
Environmental group Winton Wetlands was able to install carp screens while the water was low to stop the pest infiltrating the ecosystem.
A causeway was also partly assembled, which once completed will enable the community to cross the wetlands to the Benalla bike paths.
Winton Wetlands chief executive Jim Grant said the area flooded annually but had not had this much water for years.
Before commencing study at CSU, Luisa studied biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, which is the largest university in the Spanish-speaking world.
And much unlike Australia, studying at a university is free in Mexico.
Luisa met and fell in love with her Australian husband Daniel while on the Border, and she now plans to hunt for a job in environmental science.
Her parents couldn't make it to the graduation ceremony at Albury Entertainment Centre on Tuesday afternoon, so Daniel kindly decided to live stream it on his iPhone.
“I’m very close to them, there’s a strong emphasis on family in Mexico,” Luisa said. “Mum has visited me many times here.”
Academic gowns will feature in Albury’s streets this week as CSU celebrates the graduation of more than 400 students.