Lecturer in Climate Risk and Resilience
University of Edinburgh
And - Co-Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation
You may not be good at everything but you will bring your own perspectives and experience to the challenge.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I teach and carry out research on topics such as Climate Change and Disasters. I specifically teach Masters students climate change impacts and adaptation, basically what we are facing and how we can deal with it. It is really interesting and inspiring to work on climate change adaptation, especially when I get to work with colleagues in other countries. I am currently working on a research project with amazing women researchers in Sri Lanka, South Africa and Indonesia. We are looking at the role of cultural heritage in climate risk assessment for improved adaptation to climate change and disaster management. I used to work in New Zealand and worked with local authorities to understand climate and geohazard risk. I have also been a technical adviser for the development charity CAFOD. I got to work with incredible people supporting communities before and after major disasters.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?
I remember being at secondary school and listening to my incredible geography teacher getting very animated about volcanoes and glaciers. I was hooked. Her passion and enthusiasm for teaching and for geography was intoxicating. Years later the volcano I was studying erupted killing many people who lived on the slopes. I was so angry and upset, after that I promised to myself that I would try hard to work on applied research projects and with colleagues who, like me, wanted to have an impact and improve people's lives. As someone working in disasters, climate change was an obvious area to apply my skills and experience. We are living in a crisis that requires us all to take action.
HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?
I am extremely fortunate to have strong role models in my family and have been supported all my life to achieve my goals. My parents are exceptional people who worked all their lives to help others and build stronger communities. This gave me a resilience to overcome any challenges life throws my way. I was one of only four women in my university class and was always advised not to try and be an interdisciplinary scientist. However, one of my university tutors was an incredible researcher and teacher who gave us a more holistic view of the topics we were studying and we learnt to all apply our own interests and perspectives on our studies. Everyone has skills and views that are different and this is essential in tackling some of the world's most complex challenges such as climate change. Working in disasters and climate change sectors it was clear to me that we all need to bring of different views together to find good solutions. Interdisciplinary thinkers are essential.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"
There is no one path in life, and when you have to choose subjects at school it does not mean that it is for life. The interesting bits are what lies between the subjects you study at school and this is where we can find solutions and make positive changes for people around the world. Choose subjects that you find interesting, you will generally do better in those and enjoy your work.
WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?
We get to work on so many things! STEM has led me to work with communities in Kenya, Indonesia, and Central America as well as supporting governments here in the UK. I get to work with a diverse range of people with experience in climate sciences, culture, sociology, policy and engineering.
BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?
STEM is what you make of it. If you are passionate about climate change or humanitarian relief then STEM helps us to understand the fundamentals, it supports us to make better decisions from new green energy through to flood defences. You may not be good at everything but you will bring your own perspectives and experience to the challenge. This is essential if we are going to build a resilient world.
There is no task that is more ugent, more compelling or more sacred than that of protecting the climate of our planet for our children and grandchildren - Christiana Figueres