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Student story

Clint Rissmann

20 July 2023

'My favourite part is finding real world, cost effective solutions to improving water quality...'


Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (Secondary)

PhD in Geology

Director, Land & Water Science Ltd

Project Scientist, Our Land and Water National Science Challenge

Adjunct Senior Fellow, Waterways Centre 

With his own environmental consultancy business, Land & Water Science, Clint is passionate about applied science within the environmental and earth science scope for a range of clients across New Zealand.

“My favourite part of the job is finding real world, cost effective solutions to improving water quality outcomes and see the work I do actually being used to effect positive change,” he says.

His work sees him liaise with catchment groups, local Iwi, regional, district and city councils, and a number of industry clients on water quality. Alongside his other work with the Waterways Centre and Our Land and Water, Clint plays an important part in advising on and maintaining New Zealand fresh water.

Clint had completed studies in science at Lincoln University and University of Texas before coming to UC. His initial aspiration was to qualify as a secondary teacher, and he began teaching maths, chemistry and biology at Christchurch Boys High School.

“Learning to communicate science to high school kids has provided a sound platform for taking science to our communities,” he says. “I enjoyed my fellow postgrads and the ready support of the Geological Sciences department when I was both working as a high school teacher and doing my PhD.”

Focusing on geochemistry, Clint’s following PhD research was his ultimate career goal. He recounts some amazing memorable experiences from study, including helicopter trips to Mount Tongariro and White Island, finding a bat rookery in a geothermal field, and exploring a variety of remote sites in the field.

“I was fortunate enough to be awarded a UC Doctoral Scholarship that really helped me achieve my dream of completing a PhD. UC provided me with an opportunity to pursue a field of interest in integrated systems science. There was freedom and support to pursue my interests and flexibility to try new things – critical aspects to how I learn and understand.”

Choosing to do Geology studies in particular was due to its far-reaching implications for everything related to the earth sciences.

“I have always had a thirst for understanding natural systems. I like to see the big picture of how variance in the natural features of any given landscape govern variance in atmospheric, hydrological, and biogeochemical processes. This includes understanding how the components of the landscape interact to influence water quality or geochemical variance.

“My studies taught me to view systems in their entirety. Not just one element (eg, just the hydrology) of a system but the integrated whole. My studies also helped me evolve the ability to discriminate between what is and isn’t relevant – one of the more important skills when dealing with complex natural systems.”

As such, he emphasises that studying science needs a diverse range of knowledge from different areas, which was immensely helpful with his own diverse roles in regional council, applied research and consultancy.

“There is a real need for people who can integrate knowledge across disciplines, instead of being an expert in one domain. So don’t be afraid to diversify the breadth of your studies. Further, there is increasingly a need for IT and statistically savvy earth science folk to process large and complex geospatial data sets.”

Clint’s spare time is naturally spent in the outdoors and with his three young daughters, with involvement in a local land care group, and “any excuse to do a bit of fishing”.

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