I am a research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University. My pathway to academia was somewhat unconventional. I left high school at the end of Year 10 (aged 15), never thinking I would set foot in a university. It wasn't until I was back-packing through Southern Africa in my early twenties that I started having vague notions about doing more with my life. In fact, I distinctly recall standing at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (considerably lighter after having lost my back-pack in Botswana, and only just in one piece after being accosted by a baboon wanting my sandwich) that I realised how fascinating the world is and how little I knew. Feeling a new level of inspiration I spoke with people involved with wildlife documentaries, all of whom told me to do a degree if I was serious about entering the field. Of course, this threw up a few problems, mainly the fact that I hadn't finished high school! So it was off to TAFE (college) for two years to earn an Associate Degree in Biology. Thankfully, I achieved high enough marks to be accepted into an Advanced Biology degree. Still unsure of my 'niche' I took several jobs as a research assistant, and quickly forgot about wildlife documentaries. I realised how much I enjoyed learning, and that as a researcher I was essentially being paid to learn! What a great job! From my degree I launched straight into Honours, followed by a PhD. My candidature was a protracted affair: my first child arrived during the early stages of my PhD and so I completed most of my research part-time. In fact, earning a PhD is kind of like giving birth - long... painful...ridiculously tiring...but what joy (and relief) when it is finished!
Following my PhD I was incredibly lucky to obtain an Australian Post-Doctoral Fellowship and a lectureship, simultaneously. And now I spend my days learning as much as I can about topics that fascinate me. I read, write, experiment, and teach others. Yes, it can be frustrating, hectic and stressful, and it has taken me quite some time to work out how to balance my career as an academic with my far more important role as a mother of three, but I can honestly say that I am never bored.
So what do I research?
The potential for climate change to have drastic consequences on species and ecosystems has been at the core of my research since working as a research assistant during my undergraduate years. Over this time I have adopted an integrated approach to understanding the complexity of climate impacts by using a combination of bioclimatic modelling (species distribution modelling), fieldwork, longitudinal studies, laboratory experiments. My current research projects include:
- Integrating earth system science and climate impacts modelling
- Understanding and reducing uncertainty in species distribution modelling
- Biological responses to climate change, particularly
- distribution changes
- phenological shifts
- invasive species
- insect/parasite interactions
- Conservation implications of climate change
- Climatic niche shifts and invasive species
These research projects involve collaborations with a range of scientists at Macquarie (Daisy Duursma, Rachael Gallagher, Lesley Hughes, Michelle Leishman, Peter Wilson, Dave Nipperess, Michelle Power, Mariella Herberstein) and other national/nternational institutions (Lynda Chambers, Irene Hudson, Steve Williams, Jeremy VanDerWal, Andy Pitman, Jason Evans, Wilfried Thuiller).