Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in science?
Animals influenced my decision to work in science. Growing up around pets and wildlife fostered a fascination, respect, and love for all creatures great and small.
How did you choose your field of study?
I started volunteering at vet clinics and wildlife parks to see what it was like and quickly realised I wanted to pursue a career with animals.
Which topic are you working on at the moment? Why did you choose this topic and how do you think you’ll make a difference?
My job involves working on issues affecting all types of animals including pets, livestock, horses, pigs, poultry, and wildlife. A key part of the job is to help translate the latest science into recommendations for evidence-based policies and procedures. I hope to help drive positive changes in the lives of animals.
What are the hardest parts related to this work?
It can be emotionally challenging to deal with distressing situations involving animals but it is also a privilege to be in a position to try to do something to help.
If you were completely free to choose a scientific topic to work on, which would it be?
I was lucky enough to make this dream a reality when I did my Ph.D. Working with domestic and wild animals during stressful periods in their lives, I developed an interest in the relationship between stress, the immune system, and animal health so I designed a research project that focused on these topics.
What (or who) motivated you in difficult times?
I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful circle of inspiring friends and loved ones who share a passion for animals and the environment. They definitely help motivate me in difficult times and also celebrate the good times.
In ten years, what do you hope to have accomplished in terms of your work?
I hope we’ve progressed and are applying evidence-based animal policies and procedures that are consistent with the latest science and public opinion.
During your career, have you been specifically mentored or supported by someone?
I’m very grateful for support from many amazing female role models. They demonstrated excellence in their chosen fields and supported me to push myself. Whether we are working in big cities or the most remote jungles, mentors have shown me we are capable of overcoming any hurdle and achieving anything we set our minds to.
What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened to you while working in science?
Coming face to face with wild Bornean elephants during fieldwork took my breath away and I’ll treasure those memories for the rest of my life.
Besides your scientific interests, what are your personal interests?
As I’ve now completed fieldwork, exploring nature is now something I get to enjoy purely for pleasure.
What kind of prejudices, if any, did you have to face? How did that make you feel? Were you able to overcome these?
Unconscious bias on the basis of age, gender, and race are frustrating. For example, I was once told by a professor that, “I once had a young female student of the same cultural background as you and she failed”. Though I was taken aback, I challenged his prejudices “So does that mean you think all young females of a certain cultural background will fail?” When faced with any type of prejudice, we all need to speak up.
In your opinion, which changes, if any, are needed in the scientific system to be more attractive to female scientists and possible future scientists?
Many experts and committees have published extensively on this topic but in summary improvements are necessary at every level ranging from early childhood education (to challenge gender stereotypes), high-school (career guidance to students when they’re selecting subjects), university (ensure graduates are provided with adequate support to enter their preferred profession), research (re-evaluating metrics of success such as publication record) and the general work environment (work conditions to retain graduates, adequate parental leave and flexible work arrangements to accommodate women at all life stages).