UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on 11 February, celebrates the critical role females play in science, and reminds us of the need for full and equal access, participation and recognition.
At AWC we are working to close the science gender gap by ensuring rewarding and flexible careers for our growing team of ecologists – currently 59 scientists employed across our 31 sanctuaries and partnership areas. 66% are women, and they’re making an important contribution towards halting the decline of Australia’s threatened wildlife and turning back the tide of extinctions in Australia.
In celebration of UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, let’s meet a few more of our female scientists from across the country…
Dr Liana Joseph: National Science Manager
“I currently work with AWC’s Chief Science Officer and the National Science Team to deliver on our major science programs. Prior to that I was a Senior Ecologist and worked on developing a program for measuring and reporting on the health of the AWC sanctuaries.
My favourite part about the job is the difference we make on the ground for wildlife and for the bush. I especially love being part of threatened species reintroductions.
Recent highlights for me have been the return of Numbat and the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby to NSW national parks. It’s very rewarding when it all comes together. I’m proud of the work we do.
The collaborative, supportive spirit of AWC has allowed myself and many others to thrive.
It is an honour to be playing a role helping to protect our most threatened species, while also building a career that continues to challenge and reward our professional contributions.”
Dr Karen Young: Wildlife Ecologist NW and Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporation Partnership
“My role is to coordinate the ecology activities of the AWC -Wilinggin Partnership; sharing knowledge with, learning from and conducting field trips with Wilinggin staff and Traditional Owners; as well as contributing to AWC science activities in the North West in general.
Pursuing a career in this field can be tough for any gender. I’d recommend this career to other women because a diverse set of skills is required, and women can be quite good at handling a multitude of different tasks.
The highlights for me are getting out in the field and amongst it all, making discoveries, collecting data, and seeing others engaged by it.
My advice to women would be the same as to anyone – volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! It’s great for exposure to a wide array of skills and techniques, can help you test out what you’re really into, and broadens your connections in the field.”
Helen Crisp: Regional Ecologist SE
“I’m responsible for the development, implementation and communication of AWC’s science programs, including ecological health monitoring, research and reintroductions in South Australia and central Australia. I am also responsible for providing leadership to the south-east region and working with operations staff to deliver effective conservation on the ground.
No two days are the same. The adventures, the wildlife, the opportunities to travel and work in some of Australia’s most remote or little-known places, the ability to make a difference to Australia’s conservation story and to be able to do this with my child alongside me is a dream.
I have never really thought of myself as a ‘woman in science’ I have just done what I have loved and loved what I have done. There have been a very small number of times when I needed to speak that little bit louder to get recognition, respect and responsibility, but generally I don’t feel that being a woman has negatively impacted me. My career has been very empowering and fulfilling.”
Dr Jennifer Anson: Senior Ecologist (National Science Team)
“As a senior ecologist in the National Science Team I’m responsible for supporting the development of all AWC reintroductions, as well as liaising with government agencies, regulators and recovery teams.
I love working on a range of projects requiring diverse skills: from wrangling animals, to crawling through scrub at the crack of dawn, to developing plans to create secure threatened species populations – all while collaborating with intelligent, engaged people.
Gender disparities do occur in science (and other traditionally male dominated industries), but it’s encouraging to see more and more women at senior levels. Also, they have finally started making field pants designed for women!
Thanks to flexible working arrangements, I was able to advance my career after having children – but there are limitations to maintaining a field role once when you’re a parent. Long, remote trips and erratic hours make this a tough field – you need to be passionate to pursue it.
But it is very rewarding. I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in my work that comes from doing something you enjoy and believe in.”
Emily Rush: Field Ecologist NE
“I help to facilitate field work across seven AWC properties and two partnership properties in Australia’s north-east, so I am lucky to be able to travel and participate in fauna surveys across a very large section of Australia.
I love that I am able to work across a huge area with highly variable habitats and fauna, and be actively participating in the on-ground work that AWC do so well.
Today’s generation of women in science are so fortunate to be where they are – this path was paved before us by incredible female scientists who faced enormous difficulties. When we walk into a university enrolled in a science degree there are now a swarm of females to greet us, something our predecessors did not have.
If you’re looking for a career that takes you outside, away from mundane working schedules, and allows you to interact with incredible, knowledgeable people then I would highly recommend conservation!
Make sure you volunteer as often as you can, early in your career. Volunteering exposes you to many amazing experiences and allows you to create networks with other like-minded people, which will inevitably open doors as you continue on your journey.”
Carly Moir: Senior Field Ecologist SW
“I’m responsible for the ecological monitoring programs at Karakamia and Paruna Wildlife Sanctuaries. I also assist with community engagement; intern, volunteer and student placements; and Mt Gibson and Faure Island field work and translocations.
I love seeing the difference that we’re making first-hand. When I started as an intern at Mt Gibson, and the translocation program was still in its early stages, I would very occasionally see one of the species reintroduced to the fenced area. Since then, I’ve watched as threatened species have thrived and become a common sight. It’s easy to forget how endangered they are and how lucky I am to work with them.
Another satisfying part of my job is sharing my passion for conservation and biodiversity with the wider community, and contributing to the development of future conservationists (lots of them female!) by mentoring interns, students and volunteers.
At times in my career I have been frustrated by a lack of female representation, but today I work within an incredible team of intelligent, capable and strong women, who support and cheer for each other, and I’m incredibly appreciative.
My advice is to believe in yourself and your abilities. Surround yourself with strong supportive people, and support others. Working in conservation can be all-encompassing and emotionally challenging at times, so look after yourself and your colleagues. And volunteering as much as you can!”