What do you do?
I provide leadership to the Reef Education Team that facilitates and delivers educational programs to schools and students (foundation through to tertiary) and the wider community – within the Great Barrier Reef catchment, as well as to a national and international audience through our outreach program. Our Reef Education programs aim to educate about the Great Barrier Reef, raise awareness and inspire students and the community to care and take actions to protect the Reef.
We are responsible for education at Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium (guiding and interpretation, education programs), outreach programs (Reef Virtual Connections and video conferencing around the world), the Reef HQ Volunteers program, Reef Guardian Schools program, Edutourism programs, developing educational products for teachers and schools to use in their classrooms.
Why did you choose this field?
My passion for the Reef has long been a driving force in my career. From a young age I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I completed the International Baccalaureate at age 16 and then attended James Cook University to gain my Marine Biology Degree. I realised early in my career that I also had a passion for education and the community; recognising that long term environmental change needed to be driven by a change in behaviour to create long lasting outcomes. I blended these passions by studying to become a high school marine science teacher and was always driven to find innovative ideas to foster sustainable behaviour change. The opportunity to step out of teaching and really pursue my dream came with the opportunity to move into environmental education for a Natural Resource Management group in Central Queensland and then on to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
I have discovered throughout my career that I am driven to foster opportunities for our community to take greater ownership of their environment and motivate stewardship actions, working collaboratively towards a sustainable future. I recognise that many small actions will culminate into lasting change and that each member of society is at a different stage along this path of change. This underpins the complexity of education programs that work towards behaviour change, making it crucial to engage at various levels and through diverse programs that reach the greatest audience in a meaning manner. Passion is still one of the most significant drivers in my career and personal life; passion for the environment, passion for people, passion for education. I believe it is important to leave the world a better place for future generations. I strongly believe that through innovation and leading change we can work with our future leaders of tomorrow to create a world we can all live and prosper in.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I think I have taken a slightly unconventional "STEM" road in my career but have always been driven and stuck to my guns about what I wanted in life and been willing to chase my dreams. I think younger me was given three really critical pieces of advice. The first at university from a lecturer in the first week in front of every marine biology student starting. It went a little something like "there are 200 odd of you sitting here and there will be like 20 jobs once you graduate, work out what you want to do as a job and work towards that in the next 3 years". The second while I was a teacher from a peer, while I was struggling with school administration about establishing environmental projects at the school, who threw a copy of The Lorax at me (I book I actually used to teach with) and mockingly quoted me with my favourite quote "unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better it's not". And the third from a career mentor who gave me some really practical advice when I was considering further study to PhD or a career change. That I could study and work towards a technical career and excel in a science/technical field or i could focus on leadership and management and excel in leading people and a team but it is difficult to do both. So with some soul searching I realised my passion for people, innovation and leading change and made some choices about leadership and innovation study and explore career opportunities in managing a team. I think listening and acting on these three pieces of advice during critical times has been pivotal in my career so to my younger self I'd say listen to those around you, immerse yourself in every opportunity and seize the moment when you can! To my older self in the future - never forget that or doubt yourself!
Why do you love working in STEM?
Passion is still one of the most significant drivers in my career and personal life; passion for the environment and the Reef, passion for people, passion for education. I believe it is important to leave the world a better place for future generations. I strongly believe that through innovation and leading change we can work with our future leaders of tomorrow to create a world we can all live and prosper in. I love that I not only get the opportunity to continue learning about STEM from my colleagues and partner organisations but I then get the opportunity to share that with teachers and students and the wider community.
Best advice for next generation?
Everyone who has a love and passion of STEM has something to contribute to STEM. Your contribution is worthy, you are worthy and what you have to contribute to the world will be wanted and needed somewhere. Never let anyone out anything let you think that you can't because you CAN - find the right place and surround yourself with the right people and you will flourish in a productive environment.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
From The Lorax by Dr Seuss
I even have Unless tattooed on my wrist to remind me of this every day!