Member Spotlight

Here we showcase some of our amazing members

 
 

Dr linda armbrecht

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD), The University of Adelaide, Australia.

Photo credit: Lee Stevens/IODP

Photo credit: Lee Stevens/IODP

What is your current role?

I am an Australian Research Council (ARC) postdoctoral research associate at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD).

What has your career path been like?

I have had a rather unconventional career path, as I did not start studying until four years after finishing school. Instead I completed a professional education as a medical assistant in a paediatric surgery practice, and several internships in the veterinary science field including an extremely exciting opportunity working with the ‘Big Five’ in South Africa for six months. These unique experiences played a vital role in developing my hunger for a career in science, in which I can combine my passion for working with organisms, exploring planet Earth and contribute to preserve it. I started to study biology (University of Osnabrueck, Germany), then specialised in marine biology (University of Bremen, Germany), followed by a PhD in Biological Oceanography (Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia). My enthusiasm about the Antarctic environment and long-term geological records, lead me to my post-doctoral research in which I use micropaleontological as well as genetic techniques to investigate past ecosystems and climate (Endeavour Fellowship, Paris, France; Postdoc at ACAD). My diverse networks transitioned me through various disciplines,collaborating with some great people and world-leaders, while Iearning a multitude of techniques. All these experiences have been the foundations that has allowed me to pursue a unique career in an area of research that I am truly passionate about: ancient DNA in seafloor to reconstruct past marine communities and ecosystems. 

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
”You can learn something from everyone!”

What do you enjoy most about your research?

I most enjoy the field work and the ‘detective work’ that is involved in research. My field trips have brought me to the most amazing places on Earth, including three Antarctic expeditions in the last three years. During these lengthy expeditions everyone is dedicated to achieving big science where spirits are always high due to the excitement of discovery. It’s an excellent work environment. I also enjoy solving the riddles that the data we generate provides us with, finding out why it is the way it is and what it all means is one of the most interesting tasks in my research.  

What does a typical day of work involve for you?

Photo credit: Lee Stevens/IODP

Photo credit: Lee Stevens/IODP

Typical days usually include lab-work, data analysis and paper and grant-writing. Untypical but still frequent days include the most fascinating fieldwork, and travel to and participating in conferences and workshops.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the same field?

Look out for opportunities, participate in training programs and summer schools, gain experience overseas, and build your network early. And always take good notes!

Is there anything you find difficult/challenging? If so, how do you deal with this, is there any advice you have for someone in a similar position?

It’s a good idea to always have an open ear for other and new opinions. Sometimes that can be daunting but it’s important to be pragmatic, reassess and find the best solutions possible to any given research question.

Where are you hoping to end up in your career?

I hope I’ll have my own research group in the field of marine sedimentary ancient DNA one day and infuse the next generation of scientists with my enthusiasm about this fields and how much we can learn from it.

If you’d like to find out more about Linda’s research check out this video about her work on a recent expedition to the east of the Antarctic Peninsular.


Dr Verity Normington

Project Geologist, Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS)

What is your current role?

I am a Project Geologist with the Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS). I work in the Basin Geoscience team and the majority of work I do is concentrated in the Amadeus Basin that covers the southern part of the NT from Alice Springs to the SA/NT border. I am part of the mapping team that goes out and investigates the surface exposures of all the rocks and creates maps and reports about the rocks of the basin and the basin itself. A mapping geologist has many feathers in their caps, the feathers in my cap include sedimentology, stratigraphy, regolith geology, landscape evolution, geochronology, minex geochemistry as well as basin evolution and petroleum systems.

What has your career path been like?

I started with NTGS 5 years ago when I moved from Adelaide to Alice Springs. My career path was in one way traditional but in another way not so traditional. After failing high school due to illness and having a year off I decided to go back to school and finish year 12 and become a lab technician. I did geology as a year 12 subject and immediately fell in love with it and changed my plans to do a Bachelor of Science to become a geologist.

My time at university was interrupted several times due to needing surgery due to Chron’s Disease which meant having to have whole semesters off at a time. Despite these interruptions and with the help of the academic staff at the University of Adelaide I was able to finish my Bachelor of Science majoring in Surficial Geology. I then went on to do Honours while working at a supermarket and as a cadet geologist and then graduate geologist with the Geological Survey of South Australia. I then went straight into a PhD at the University of Adelaide.

My PhD, looking into the mineral implications of glacial sediments of South Australia was funded by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC) which gave me the opportunity to work with and build a network of Earth Scientists around Australian across many disciplines. During my PhD, I also worked briefly as an exploration geologist for CAMECO working DIDO (Drive In, Drive Out) in the Strzelecki Desert. I also had the opportunity to present at several International conferences in Europe as well as many in Australia. However it was not without its challenges my time as a PhD was interrupted by breaks for surgeries and illness due to Chron’s Disease.

I was in the final stages of my PhD when I applied for my current role at NTGS and in September 2013 I started working full time in Alice Springs while still completing my PhD remotely. In mid-2018, some 5 years later, I handed in my PhD and graduated. Again this was not without its challenges, doing a PhD remotely certainly had its challenges, the worst of which is the feeling of isolation no matter how responsive your supervisory panel is. Having very busy field seasons meant that for almost 5 months of the year I was not able to progress my PhD at all. After another period of illness a prolonged hospital stay and surgery I finally decided to put some major effort into finishing my PhD. Now that I have finished my PhD I am able to devote a lot of my time to my volunteer roles as secretary of the Governing Council of the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) and as Ambassador for Early Career Geoscientists for the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC).

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? 

Take every opportunity that is given to you and to take the risk – I would not be living and working in Alice Springs if I had not followed this advice.

What do you enjoy most about your job/research?

I enjoy the variety of what I do, the advantage of working in a smaller geological survey is that you get to dip your toe into many different aspects of geoscience as well as other aspects such as doing technical edits and planning field campaigns where you have to liase with land holders and other community stakeholders. One day I might be writing a geochronology report and the next I’m participating in a workshop with industry where we are sharing our findings and understandings of the geology and learning from each other.

What does a typical day of work involve for you?

There is no typical day in the office for me as I have so many different aspects of my job. A typical day in the office for me might involve doing linework for a map we are creating or doing a technical edit on a map that is almost finished, it could be writing a report on geochronology data that has come in from an external lab or writing explanatory notes to go with the maps that are in production. I might be at the core shed looking at a drillhole that needs a stratigraphic revision so it reflects the most recent understanding of the stratigraphy of the basin. If its field season I could be traversing across a ridge walking through the Neoproterozoic and into the Cambrian observing how the lithology changes as the climate changed and the fauna evolved from Stromatolites to hard bodied sea dwelling creature.

Be resilient, be patient, accepting of yourself and most importantly be kind to yourself and make sure you are doing what you need to do to stay physically and mentally healthy.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the same field?

Don’t pigeon hole yourself as one type of geologist, try your hand at as many different types of geology as you can. You may find your absolute passion and/or your niche and your people or you might just find yourself doing something different every day.

Is there anything you find difficult/challenging? If so, how do you deal with this, is there any advice you have for someone in a similar position?

The obvious challenge for me is working full time in a sometimes physically demanding job while managing a Chronic Illness. Many doctors and health care professionals told me that being a field geologist was not possible and that I should change careers. I have been living with a chronic illness for almost 20 years now and I have never let it stop me from doing anything. Things might take longer to finish or they have to be done slightly differently but there is always way to realise your dreams and follow your passions.  

For others in a similar position I would say be resilient, be patient, accepting of yourself and most importantly be kind to yourself and make sure you are doing what you need to do to stay physically and mentally healthy. There is no shame is taking some time out for yourself and allowing yourself to heal.  


Where are you hoping to end up in your career?

I love working for a government survey, you stand on both sides of the academia/industry fence. The work we do is very much focused to what industry need and want but at the same time we have the freedom to investigate things we find interesting. I want to be able to stay in government surveys but I would love to be able to lead a team and share my passion for geoscience and also for project management with others. Inspiring people to be their best self is inspiring to me.

You can follow Verity’s work on Twitter and Linkedin. She was also recently featured as one of Science and Technology Australia’s ‘Superstars of STEM’!


Joanne (JO) Watkins

Chief Executive, Earth Science Western Australia

_MG_5754 - Copy (3).jpg

What is your current role?

I run an educational not-for-profit (reporting to a Board) called Earth Science WA. We create resources, train teachers, present incursions, support events and do many more things to support the teaching of Earth and Space Science (K-10) and Earth and Environmental Science (Year 11 and 12).

What has your career path been like?

I studied Biological and Environmental Sciences at Murdoch University then went straight into a Graduate Diploma of Education. From there I worked as a teacher in a district high school covering everything from Science and Maths to Outdoor Ed and Computing. Over time, I specialised in Science and Earth and Environmental Science teaching (and fell in love with earth science). The opportunity to work with Earth Science WA (ESWA) came up and I jumped at it, starting as Executive Officer, Secondary Education and then moving on to CEO. During this time I also completed a Graduate Diploma in Mineral Exploration Geosciences through the WA School of Mines.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? 

Everybody feels under qualified for their dream job, just go for it! This advice led me to apply for the job with ESWA and allowed me to work hard to increase my knowledge and skill base in the very best place for me.

What do you enjoy most about your job/research?

I love sharing my passion for earth and environmental sciences, encouraging other young women (and men) to consider it as a wonderful (and important) career. I fell into both environmental and earth sciences, I started out in biology and, after taking an environmental science elective in my first year, added it to my degree. Then I was given the opportunity to teach the Year 11/12 subject Earth and Environmental Science and fell in love with Earth Science and that has led me to where I am today.

Everybody feels under qualified for their dream job, just go for it!

What does a typical day of work involve for you?

Every day is different (that’s why I love it)! I could be running hands-on incursions at a school, taking students out on a field trip, training teachers, working on new teaching resources, creating marketing materials, developing our websites, meeting with collaborators and sponsors, reporting to our Board, travelling to regional schools or conferences, updating our finances (or any number of administrative tasks) or any combination of these really.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the same field?

Take interesting electives, follow your heart and volunteer for programs that work with students (I get such joy out of seeing them become enthused about what I love).

Is there anything you find difficult/challenging? If so, how do you deal with this, is there any advice you have for someone in a similar position?

I find juggling competing interests and tasks challenging. My advice is to get really organised, I am always on the look-out for platforms/software that helps me to reduce my time spent on administration and to keep me focused on what is important.

How has the field you work in changed (particularly regarding women) since you have started working?

Teaching and science communication have always been female friendly fields but I am finding that I am working with more and more women in the resources industry (in increasingly senior roles) and I love that.

What do you see as the next steps forward in your field?

I think we need to help students prepare for a rapidly changing workplace and would love to work more on what skills students need and how ESWA could help with that.

You can find out more about ESWA here: www.earthsciencewa.com.au, or on Facebook and Twitter.


Dr Lorna Strachan

Senior Lecturer of Sedimentology, University of Auckland

What is your current field of research?

I am a marine geologist who specialises in understanding the way in which sediment moves and is deposited in the deep ocean. I do this by studying the seafloor, analysing sediment cores and also by looking at ancient seafloor sediments that have been turned to rock and are now exhumed at the earth’s surface.

What has your career path been like?

I followed a fairly typical education trajectory, once I finished high school I went to the University of Leeds to study a BSc (Hons) in Geological Sciences, followed by a PhD at Imperial College and Cardiff University. I then worked as a science administrator for year, did 2 post-doctoral research jobs and then moved to NZ where I was employed as a Lecturer in Sedimentology at the University of Auckland.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? 

Someone told me to form collaborations with people you’d like to spend time with in the pub! I think that this was a great piece of advice! I have found the best and most enduring collaborations are with people I consider to be good friends. It’s a pleasure to work with them.

“Form collaborations with people you’d spend time with in the pub!”

What do you enjoy most about your job/research?

I enjoy several things, first the interaction with research students both in developing a good working relationship and in idea bouncing, second the luxury of essentially being my own boss, I get to decide what direction I want to take my research in and what information I want to share in my lectures. I think both of these aspects make academia a pretty special place work.

What does a typical day of work involve for you?

As a mother of 2 young children my days start early and involve getting the family up and ready to start work/daycare. Once at work my days are very varied. They can involve many hours of lecture and laboratory teaching, meetings with colleagues to plan teaching and research, skype meetings with research collaborators, meetings with my students, hands-on research of rock or core samples, or spending the day in the field. I am constantly juggling many tasks and priorities and so no two days are the same.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the same field?

Follow your passion and find a great team of people to work with.

Is there anything you find difficult/challenging? If so, how do you deal with this, is there any advice you have for someone in a similar position?

The juggle of work and family life is particularly tough sometimes, particularly during that 1st year back after parental leave. I have been lucky enough to have a mentor who has recently gone through a similar experience. The act of sharing experiences and talking about strategies to protect myself from taking on too much have been immensely helpful.

“These women are role models and trailblazers for others, like me, to follow.”

How has the field you work in changed (particularly regarding women) since you have started working?

There have always been a healthy number of women in the field of sedimentology, but only a relatively small number have remained in academia. This has certainly changed, with more and more female role models remaining in the field and reaching the highest echelons. These women are role models and trail blazers for others, like me, to follow.