My career

I studied biology and environmental science back in the late 80s/early 90s at Murdoch University.

For my honours year, I won an industry scholarship to work on a project at BP Refinery in Kwinana, Western Australia, working on the ‘optimal conditions for decomposition of oily sludge’. This involved investigating the bacteria found naturally in the soil that eat (decompose) oil (hydrocarbons) that settled at the bottom of tanks. I tested which conditions improved the decomposition process: by changing the amount of water, fertiliser and tilling (turning over the soil) that was applied to test plots, just like looking after a farm. My results and recommendations were used to start a new landfarm at the Refinery to treat and breakdown the oily sludge.

When I graduated in 1992, I got my first job to work as a microbiologist at Canberra University, looking at the bacteria that breakdown hydrocarbons, but just in a laboratory setting. This lasted for a massive nine month after I realised lab work was not for me. So I went back to study environmental management, and dabbled in a bit of environmental consulting for a couple of years.

Around 1996, I met someone who was studying ‘science communication’ at the Australian National University, and found that there was a scholarship to apply to do this as a graduate diploma. After reaching the runner-up position (if one of the 12 selected dropped out…and no one did), I instead enrolled in the newly-created Masters in Science Communication course at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the ANU. And so began my career as a science communicator.

I’ve certainly undertaken numerous roles in that field, including:

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