What do you do?
I am a research scientist and I investigate the ecology and evolution of sharks and rays. I use different tools to define and describe populations and species in these animals and how these change in space and time. I am interested in basic research and knowledge gain as well as generating outputs that help with conservation and fisheries management.
Why did you choose this field?
I decided I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a teenager. I grew up inland but we went to the coast for family holidays and it was my favourite time of the year. I was intrigued by all marine life, and in particular, sharks and rays. They had a pretty bad reputation back then and I felt it was unwarranted. My first motivation to become a marine scientist was to provide a voice for these animals. 25 years later I have learned so much and am still learning so much about how wonderfully fascinating these creatures are.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I think younger me was much braver and more daring than I am now. I wish to be inspired by her! I think as a child I would never have thought I would be underwater, grabbing sharks by the end of the tail and snipping tissue samples for downstream genetic analysis. It does seem a bit nuts now I write it down!
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love discovery. In research we set out to answer questions with scientific rigour. Along the way we often discover new and exciting things that we didn’t expect and fill us with wonder. The natural world is so fascinating and extraordinary yet entirely ordinary and we are a part of it. I enjoy the multiple facets of my work where I get to mix laboratory work, data analysis and writing with SCUBA diving in the ocean and spending time underwater with the animals themselves.
Best advice for next generation?
Work hard, show initiative and get as much experience as you can across different fields. As much as conducting experiments and crunching numbers, science is about communicating. Practice writing for different audiences as your written word is your strongest tool. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up. Your voice counts and your ideas count, so have confidence in them. Science is about communicating and asking questions and using appropriate methods to answer them. The answers change with time and new tools so don’t be afraid to change too in face of new knowledge.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I work a lot with DNA and I’m always amazed how this small molecular is the foundation of life so I’m going to give a big shout out to Rosalind Franklin. Rosalind was the unsung hero behind the discovery of the structure of DNA. She was an x-ray diffraction expert who made images of DNA proteins in the 1950s. Watson and Crick based their work on Rosalind’s but sadly only they were awarded recognition for this work as a Nobel Prize. Rosalind died 4 years before the Nobel prize was awarded at the age of 37. I learned about Watson and Crick early on in my career but it wasn’t until later that I learned about Rosalind, a trail-blazing woman in STEM.