What is your current Job Title or Role?
Visiting Researcher, University of Plymouth
What advice would you have for young women who are interested in a STEM career or job?
Follow your curiosity and your passion, but have an awareness that you will likely have to work harder than a man at an equivalent stage. Know this and if it angers you, speak out about it. At each stage of your career, actively find people who can relate to you, your work and/or your situation. Stand tall and know that you do have a place in STEM. You are welcome and your are worthy.
How did you get to where you are today?
My fascination with coral developed during my undergraduate degree (University of Plymouth), where I taught myself coral biology in my spare time. I funded, designed and executed an independent research project to Indonesia in the second year of my BSc–conducting the first coral disease surveys in that region and triggering my interest in coral immunity. I transferred my degree to James Cook University, Australia, gaining research experience by volunteering for PhD students on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). I subsequently conceived and proposed the research that became my NERC PhD studentship. I began my PhD by winning a place on the prestigious Pauley Program at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology with the late Prof Ruth Gates, and rapidly extended my research independence by pioneering the field of coral immunology—a new area of research. In 3 years I graduated Cum laude, resulting in multiple publications and a Graduate Research Award (JCU). I continued my research by leading the Mydlarz lab field season in Puerto Rico and collaborating with Profs Baird and Connolly on Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. I left academia after a short post-doc in Texas. Through adverse academic experiences, I discovered the strength of my moral code, integrity of my scientific conduct and tenacity. During my career break, I became a stay-at-home-mother, nursed my husband through cancer, retrained as a health coach and started my own business (Flourish, www.flourishlife.co.uk). Since 2017, I have refocussed again on science and coral immunity as a vital aspect of coral reef conservation and restoration. I have established a coral conservation project (Seeking Survivors www.seekingsurvivors.org) in Costa Rica, working with Guanacaste Dry Forest Conservation Fund I have developed a collaborative network among scientists, organisations and communities, and have a core team of local career citizen scientists, international volunteers and students. I champion women in science, speaking out against harassment and bullying, and promoting equality as co-coordinator of 500 Women Scientists Plymouth Pod.
What do you do on a daily basis in your work?
Write. A huge component of my work is writing, in various forms such as scientific publications for peer review, grant applications, emails to donors or volunteers. Field work is different. In the field I typically dive or snorkel every day and process coral samples.
Who or what inspired you to get into STEM?
I've always felt at home in and on the sea and have been concerned about the environment for as long as I can remember. I was inspired to go into Science because I enjoyed it, am good at it and I have so many questions that I want to answer about the world and there are so many problems that need to be fixed! I was drawn to coral biology as I became increasingly aware of the plight of coral reefs under climate change (we are talking in 2002 here) and was outraged that no one seemed to be doing anything about it. I'm trying, against the odds, to do something about it.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Constantly learning new things and applying knowledge from other disciplines to create a whole new area of research.
What do you like to do outside work?
I run my health coaching business and am a coordinator of 500 Women Scientists Plymouth Pod. I enjoy running, yoga and pilates. I wish I was better at playing the guitar and always plan to spend more time painting!