What is your current Job Title or Role?
Marine Earth Observation Scientist
What advice would you have for young women who are interested in a STEM career or job?
I think it's an interesting and invigorating time to be a woman in STEM - there are certainly more role models and it's clear from initiatives like this that there's a thriving group of successful women across the sciences. But there's still a lot of work to be done with regards to dismantling invisible barriers. If (when) you feel like there are things standing in your way, just know that nothing is insurmountable. My advice is this: reach out. Find mentors. Gather your people around you, even if it's entirely through social media platforms. There is *so much* knowledge and support out there for you - how to manage imposter syndrome, find funding, juggle ambitions and responsibilities, handle homesickness, heal from loss, and fight everyday injustices.
How did you get to where you are today?
Oof, this is a long story. I've always wanted to be a scientist of *some* sort, but coming from a conservative (and patriarchal) background meant that I took a tortuous route to get here. First, I excelled in languages to get into the university I wanted, but changed to a science degree as soon as I could. This was quite a feat as I hadn't taken science at school and had a LOT to catch up on. Guess who got 12% on their first stats exam? I did! Nonetheless, I did eventually graduate - thanks largely to my excellent support group of friends, tutors and lecturers - majoring in microbiology and ichthyology (with distinction!). I wanted a career in the latter (who doesn't love fish?) but was told it wasn't a place for women. So I stuck with microbiology (genetic engineering of crop plants was fascinating too). Fast-forward through a 5-year career in wetland rehabilitation when I FINALLY got brave enough to do a taught Masters in 'marine science' at the University of Cape Town. In a nutshell: I did well enough to win a bursary to travel to the Sea Mammal Research Unit in Scotland, where I gave a talk, met some amazing people, and was offered a PhD in Biological Oceanography. This was where I started to use satellite data for the first time. I fell in love with this new field of science straight away, and now I get to call myself a marine satellite scientist, combining all my favourite things.
What do you do on a daily basis in your work?
My day-to-day work can be pretty diverse. I'm currently learning a whole new way to code, while tailoring methods for detecting floating macroplastics using satellite imagery. Through NEODAAS, I also get to help people who have queries about integrating satellite data into their own NERC funded work, and I get to co-publish interesting user stories on the @NEODAAS Twitter account.
Who or what inspired you to get into STEM?
My grandfather was a scientist at heart, and he would often take me on long walks where we would examine different rocks, insects, plants and animals. He certainly kick-started my love for discovery. I also had a wonderful geography teacher at school who told me I would make a great marine biologist. When I thought about quitting (so many times) along the way, I remembered her words and dug my heels in!
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love how diverse my role is, and how I'm always learning new skills.
What do you like to do outside work?
Travel! I also love to rock climb, scuba dive, go for long walks, and read trashy sci-fi books. It is my ambition to pet every dog and cat.