Hiruni Kammanankada chose UNSW Sydney for her undergraduate studies because she knew she wanted to study engineering but she wasn’t sure which specific field she wanted to focus on.  When choosing her professional electives she found she did best in water engineering courses, which led her to undertake her honours research thesis in water.

It was while completing this honours research that Hiruni Kammanankada was first introduced to the UNSW Tube Fishway Product, led by the UNSW Water Research Laboratory (UNSW WRL). The Tube Fishway project, which is developing cost-effective techniques to transport fish over hydraulic barriers, taught Hiruni about the shocking decline in freshwater fish populations due to the impacts of structures such as dams and weirs. And when an opportunity arose for Hiruni to continue working on this project during her PhD candidacy, she simply couldn’t say no.

Hiruni says that the impacts of hydraulic structures such as dams and weirs on fish populations are astounding, and that the novel Tube Fishway system offers a cutting-edge solution.

“The basic building blocks of the WRL fishway are simple piped connections and valves, so they can be easily retrofitted to existing weirs and dams. There are also no mechanical components that require ongoing maintenance. This can offer greatly reduced construction and maintenance costs and would enable the rapid remediation of weirs state-wide,” says Hiruni.

“Instead of requiring a pump to pipe the fish up and over hydraulic barriers, it uses the energy of water stored at an upstream reservoir to transport significant volumes of water from the base of the dam or weir using simple conduits and two valves.”

Hiruni’s research is supervised by William Peirson and Stefan Felder and focuses on further developing the design and implementation of the Tube Fishway by deploying and testing the novel innovation at ten field sites across New South Wales. The outcomes from this experiment will inform a set of guidelines that will outline the correct Tube Fishway installation for real world application.

“By furthering the Tube Fishway design and contributing to its eventual successful installation on real-world sites, huge stretches of fragmented rivers can be reformed to enable fish passage once more,” says Hiruni.

Hiruni says that she is grateful that UNSW Sydney’s flexible first year program enabled her to get a taste for engineering without committing to a specific field, and that the connections she was able to make with lecturers and academics during her undergraduate degree were a key driver for her PhD candidacy.

In future, she aims to continue leveraging her growing industry and academic connections to find unique opportunities to harness the skills she has developed.

“The great thing about my research is that I have the opportunity to further develop my field skills while maintaining industry connections and working on a project I truly care about,” says Hiruni.

I’ll be required to contact major water asset owners and stay up to date with industry trends, placing me in a good position to apply this unique knowledge and skills in the Australian water industry.”

More information on the Tube Fishway project can be found on the UNSW WRL website