What inspired you to do science? What do you love most?
I really like a good question; figuring out what actually needs solving and what information would solve it. I love tackling conundrums, such as what is an acceptable level of ecological impact on a marine system from fishing? Who should get a seat at the table to decide what that level is? What role does scientific data play, and what is the role of values? Should we focus more of our efforts in mitigating the drivers of climate driven change, or more on adapting to unavoidable changes?
And I like tackling these questions with the people who have direct interests in these issues and who have considerable knowledge about the marine systems in question.
How did you end up here?
I grew up in Tasmania but sought a scene change in Western Australia, where I embarked on a PhD investigating cumulative impacts and governance of tourism, fisheries and aquaculture at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, off the mid-west coast. These are an amazing archipelago, surrounded by reefs of both coral and warm-temperate algal species, and were at the time inhabited by rock lobster fishing communities. My 4 years out there were an adventure in every sense. On top of my studies I worked as a cook for a few of the fishermen (however they encouraged me to not pursue a career in the food industry). I grew increasingly fascinated by fisheries and issues of common pool resources in particular. Along the way I met my husband, Graeme, who was working in the Western Rock Lobster fishery at the time.
An opportunity came up to work with the Tasmanian Seafood Industry Council, which I took up in order to come home to Tasmania. Through working with TSIC, I encountered UTAS fisheries researchers and realised that I really wanted to finish my PhD and get back to tackling those social, economic and, ultimately, governance issues surrounding marine industries.
Why is your research important?
I work as a social scientist investigating fisheries and aquaculture. We manage people, not fish – this is the famous insight by Kevin Cochrane (world renowned wise man of fisheries management). So we need to understand the social, economic and governance systems at the same as the biological and ecological systems that underpin our fisheries. And we need to know how they interact.
Does climate change make you feel concerned? If so, why?
Yes, in a word. I am concerned about the exposure of southern rock lobster and the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery in particular (in which my husband works) to the impacts of increasing ocean acidification and warming water temperatures. It is not clear how directly these are and will impact on the productivity of the stock but, without doubt, climate change has introduced extra drivers of change and heightened uncertainty, and volatility in recruitment.
What is your ideal holiday?
It’s the east coast of Tasmania for me, with my little family and our paddle boards and snorkel kit. I’ve worked and camped and walked and paddled along a lot this coast since I was small and it’s a rejuvenating place. And beautiful.
What advice would you give early career researchers in science today?
I’d say embrace the opportunity to work on research projects drawing together threads of science from many disciplines – having inter-disciplinary skills means you will get to work on big, complex projects investigating ‘wicked’ types of problems. And I think these types of types of problems will continue to confront and confound us.