Our Story

About us

The International RiverFoundation champions integrated river basin management for the restoration, protection and sustainable management of the world’s rivers. We do this by facilitating education, recognition and collaboration.

Water is crucial for all life—and we need healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands for sustainable development. We promote and support effective management of these resources by facilitating knowledge sharing, education and best practice river basin management, and by recognising and rewarding those making a difference.

We draw upon our large networks, and seek to build new ones, to revive the world’s rivers through multi-sector partnerships around the world. We are committed to supporting positive ecological, economic and social outcomes through our programs, which aim to change the lives of individuals and communities.

Our vision

We envision a future in which people and ecosystems benefit from sustainably managed rivers.

How we do it

Check out our programs page.

Global network

Our goals

To recognise, reward and replicate exceptional efforts in the protection, restoration and sustainable management of the world’s rivers,

To facilitate global knowledge sharing in sustainable, integrated river basin management,

To raise awareness of environmental, economic, scientific, social and cultural aspects of rivers,

To facilitate multi-sector partnerships and alliances that further global action to protect and revive rivers, and

To empower and support individuals to make a positive contribution for the world’s river basins.

Who we are

Our Team

Our Story – Ian Atkinson

Ian Atkinson

Chief Executive Officer
Our Story – Trish Dalby

Trish Dalby

Marketing & Communication Manager
Our Story – Charlotte Spliethoff

Charlotte Spliethoff

Business Development & Program Manager
Our Story – John Hayes

John Hayes

Finance Manager
Our Story – Abdula Bansuan

Abdula Bansuan

Project Coordinator – Philippines
Our Story – Tarika Khanna

Tarika Khanna

Project Coordinator – Riversymposium New Delhi
Our Story – Vanh Mixap

Vanh Mixap

Project Coordinator – Emerging Water Professionals Program

Our Board

Our Story – Roger Higgins

Dr Roger Higgins (Chair)

Our Story – Craig Morton

Craig Morton

Our Story – Deborah Nias

Dr Deborah Nias

Our Story – Peter Rowley

Dr Peter Rowley

Our Story – Selina Ward

Dr Selina Ward

Our Story – John McCarthy

John McCarthy AO

Our Story – Martin Albrecht

Martin Albrecht AC

Our Story – Philip Weller

Philip Weller

Our Story – Bill Dennison

Prof Bill Dennison

Our Ambassadors

Melanie Ryan
Luc Hoffmann Institute, UK

Johnny Sundstrom
Siuslaw Institute, USA

Prof Alastair Driver
International Catchment Restoration Specialist

Amos Brandeis
Consultant, Israel

Shrikant Limaye
Groundwater Institute, India

Olita Ogonjo


IRS Scholarships




Twinning Partnerships


River Recovery Projects

  • Ian has over 30 years’ experience in agriculture and natural resource management, having joined the IRF after leading the Nature Foundation SA, a not-for-profit conservation charity that works towards saving, protecting and restoring South Australia’s natural biodiversity. He holds qualifications in Agricultural Science, Horticultural Science, Science Communication and Law. He has many years of experience in senior roles as well as a very practical knowledge of water and land management, including CEO and leadership roles with Irrigation Australia, the CRC for Irrigation Futures (CRCIF) and the Nursery Industry Association of Australia.

    E: ian@riverfoundation.org.au
    L: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian-atkinson-1631622a

  • Charlotte is an experienced project manager in a variety of technical fields, including river basin management, water and integrated flood risk management and geotechnical engineering. Her efforts include leading the International Levee Handbook’s chapter on levee construction, managing a multi-national team of 25 levee experts and receiving the European Young Professional 2012 Award for engineering excellence. She has developed profitable business opportunities and new client and partner relationships in Queensland. Charlotte also works as a self-employed consultant and is the Immediate Past President of the Queensland Young Water Professional Committee of the Australian Water Association, an individual member of Floodplain Management Australia, program coordinator for a knowledge-exchange partnership between the Netherlands and Queensland on water-related issues, and co-convener of the Community of Practice on Integrated Flood Risk Management in Queensland (Flood CoP)

    E: charlotte@riverfoundation.org.au

  • After ‘trialling’ retirement for nine months, John was ready to re-engage with his vocation but this time wanted to become more environmentally aware and make a contribution. John spent over 30 years in the public service in human resources, program and business management. He completed his accounting degree later in life and spent after a few years as a tax accountant. His time is now divided between travel, grandchildren, the RiverFoundation and cooking. Baked cheesecakes are his specialty and he has found the RiverFoundation staff and volunteers willing judges of his creations.

    E: john@riverfoundation.org.au

  • Abdula spent 20 years of his professional career working among academia NGOs, research centers, and local and national authorities, with over 10 years focused in the environment sector. He manages the WE-BUILD river recovery project in the Addalam River Basin, Luzon, Philippines, working with a wide range of partners to deliver leadership capability advancement for communities and local governments. Abdula holds a Master of Integrated Water Management, Master of Science in Environmental and Resource Management, Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Administration. He is a member of International Water Association (IWA), Secretary of the Philippine Watershed Management Coalition (PWMC), and Ambassador of the International Water Centre (IWC).

    E: abdula@riverfoundation.org.au

  • Tarika has a background in natural resources management, especially in the urban and rural water and sanitation sector. She possesses in-depth knowledge of the water and energy sector, water and environmental quality, water and ecosystem integrity and water and sanitation sector, and has planned and arranged promotion and awareness programs on various themes. Tarika has completed a Bachelor in Life Sciences majoring in Chemistry, Botany and Zoology and Masters in Natural Resources Management from New Delhi, India. In 2015, she completed a Master of Integrated Water Management from The University of Queensland and the International Water Centre, Australia.

    E: tarika@riverfoundation.org.au

  • Roger Higgins has more than 40 years’ experience in the resources industries.  He began as an engineering hydrologist, and has worked in environmental, planning, operations and project development roles in the minerals industry. From 2008-2013, he was Senior Vice President Copper for Teck Resources, and prior to that held positions with BHP Billiton over a period of 25 years, in Australia, Chile, Papua New Guinea and USA.  He is a graduate of the University of Queensland, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of New South Wales where he completed a PhD in water resources. He attended the Stanford Executive Program in 1997. Roger serves as a non-executive director for two mining companies, and is an Adjunct Professor with the Sustainable Minerals Institute at the University of Queensland.

  • Craig is Thiess’ Executive General Manager – Assets, with more than 22 years’ experience in chartered accounting and contracting. He is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and holds a Bachelor of Business from the Queensland University of Technology. Over the past 15 years, he has held senior positions including the role of Finance Director, APAC and Africa for a global EPCM provider. During his time at Thiess, he has held senior finance, commercial and operational positions as well as the role of General Manager Finance and Commercial for Thiess’ Australian Mining operations. Craig is renowned for his strong leadership and ability to link both commercial and operational drivers to achieve improved business outcomes.

  • Deborah is the CEO of Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd and has over 20 years’ experience in the management of wetlands and environmental water within the Murray-Darling Basin. Her broad experience includes wetland ecology, large project management, community engagement, Board governance, government liaison, water management and management of multi-discipline teams. She is a Churchill Fellow, Peter Cullen Trust Fellow, Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, IRF Ambassador and current Chair of the Australian Riverprize judging panel. Deborah holds a PhD in wetland ecology and believes good science with meaningful community engagement and involvement should underpin all natural resource management.

  • Peter is the London-based Director and Head of the Global Oil & Gas Services Sector with ERM, and was also a Fulbright  Fellow and Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at Colorado State University. Peter has worked in the environmental consulting industry and has been involved in a large range of extractive industry projects in Asia, the Middle East , North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. He is the ERM Liaison Delegate to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He has lectured at The Judge Institute of Management at Cambridge University in the UK on sustainability in the global mining industry and gave the keynote address at the Zurich Global Risk Managers Conference on emerging mega risks for the industry.

  • Dr Selina Ward is a senior lecturer at The University of Queensland. For the past ten years, Selina has concentrated on the effects of climate change on corals, including the effects of bleaching on coral reproduction and the sub-bleaching effects of small changes in temperature. Currently Selina is examining the effects of ocean acidification. Selina has also worked on the uptake of symbiotic dinoflagellates and endolithic algae by newly settled corals.

  • Born in Washington, D.C., John McCarthy is a barrister-at-law and practised in London from 1965 to 1966. He worked with the New York Law Firm of Shearman & Sterling from 1966 to 1967 and joined the then-Australian Foreign Service in 1968. McCarthy has served as Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam (1981–83), Ambassador to Mexico (1985–87), Ambassador to Thailand (1992–94), Ambassador to the United States from 1995 to 1997, Ambassador to Indonesia (1997-2001), Ambassador to Japan (2001 – 2004), and High Commissioner to India (2004-2009). He has also served in diplomatic posts in Damascus, Baghdad and Vientiane. McCarthy was appointed an Officer of the Order for Australia in 1999 for service to the enhancement of Australia’s international reputation and to the development of Australian regional policy.

  • Martin was the inaugural Chair of the International RiverFoundation in 2003 and retired from the position in December 2010. He now remains involved as a Director. Martin was CEO of Thiess for over 15 years from 1985 and Chair of the Thiess Board and a Director of Leighton Holdings from 2001 – 2008. He maintains an active interest in a wide range of government, community, and cultural activities. He is a member of the Board of Governors for CEDA and recently retired as Chairman of Wesley Research Institute. He was awarded Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AC) in 2002, and also the Centenary Medal in 2003. Martin is also a recipient of Honorary Doctorates from University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, and University of South Australia.

  • Philip Weller is an environmental planner, consultant in Canada and Austria, and the Danube Water Program Coordinator for the International Association of Danube Water Companies (IAWD). He was previously Director irector of Great Lakes United, Executive Secretary of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), and Programme Director of WWF International (Danube Carpathian Programme, 1995-2002), driving the ‘Lower Danube Green Corridor’, an agreement between Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine for the largest wetland protection and restoration initiative in Europe. Philip has considerable experience in the restoration of natural ecosystems and public involvement in environmental decision-making, and is the author of three books on environmental topics including ‘Freshwater Seas’, an environmental history of the Great Lakes of North America.

  • Bill leads the Integration and Application Network, a collection of scientists interested in solving, not just studying, environmental problems. He is actively involved in the Chesapeake Bay Program, USA and had an active role in the Healthy Waterways Campaign of South-East Queensland, Australia. Bill has a marine science background, and has published books and papers on a wide range of marine topics. In his current role as Vice-President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, his focus is on developing ways to effectively communicate science and to create credible and rigorous environmental report cards.