How a love of the Deep Blue led to a brilliant career

This year, the Schools Theme for National Science Week is “Deep Blue: innovation for the future of our oceans” – in honour of the beautiful oceans lapping at our shores. This week’s post features Marine Biologist, Jodi Salmond, and she shared her love of conservation biology and citizen science, and answered a few of our questions.

I planned to be a marine biologist from 9 years of age. I remember sitting on the school steps, making a pinky promise to my best friend about my ‘grown-up’ ambitions. In 2001 I completed a Bachelor of Science and Honours in marine parasitology at James Cook University. I spent the next few years travelling the world, working and volunteering at an array of exotic locations and scientific institutions; CSIRO, the QLD museum, The University of the Sunshine Coast, Christmas Island, and Mozambique; researching whale sharks, coral reefs, turtles and parasites along the way.

Jodi Salmond, Marine Biologist & General Manager, Reef Check Australia [photos: J. Salmond & Reef Check Australia ]

In 2010 I started volunteering with Reef Check Australia, and won a coveted Vodafone World of Difference Position in 2012, kickstarting my RCA career. In 2019 I became the General Manager; a marine researcher specializing in citizen science, conservation biology and behaviour change. Underwater, I train divers in global reef health monitoring protocols; above it, I aim to engage and inspire through hands-on research, education, and personal development to encourage everyone to become the best versions of themselves and to look after the planet.

I was recently chosen as one of 80 women leaders in STEMM in for the Homeward Bound Program; a global leadership initiative, aiming to heighten the influence and impact of women, and shed light on the issues of climate change and gender inequality.

I do what I do because I believe in people, in diversity, in growth and collaboration. In connecting science, nature and humans. We need to support each other, lift each other up (emotionally and physically; I’m an acrobat in my spare time) and that through genuine, unique experiences in nature, we create connections with the world around us, creating a ripple of influence that results in better connected, more aware individuals who make better choices for the future of our planet.

Jodi Salmond diving with a whale shark [photo credit: Dr Simon Pierce]
What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?

My MacGyver-like skills. So many times, things go wrong; at the office, in the field, underwater, whilst travelling. The ability to hit a roadblock and quickly change plans, or to fix a problem or adapt to the situation is a trait I really admire in others and truly attribute my success to. Its also one of the first things I train in others. I believe if you can team that up with an ability to laugh at yourself, you can only ever succeed.

What do you believe are the greatest attributes of a successful leader?

The best leaders are truly authentic; who they show to the world is who they are. They inspire others through their actions; its what they do when people are not looking that makes them great. A true leader leads by example and always strives to lift those around them up, not push them down. They listen to understand, not to respond. A true leader inspires those around them to live their very best self, for themselves, which in turn is best for those around them and the planet.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?

Follow your heart. You know what you want, so don’t let anyone stop you from achieving your goals. There are many male dominated fields, but don’t let that be a factor in your decision. I know its easy to be overwhelmed, but if you believe in yourself, you cannot fail.

What do you do to cope with the pressures and challenges of leading and/or managing a team?

I believe a strong network of friends and family is integral; I often call a friend to catch up for coffee or for a walk on the beach, just to talk about anything that isn’t work! Sometimes I just need some time in nature, in the sun, reading a book, all by myself. Other times, I just really need to laugh; so I’ll play with my dogs, watch a funny movie, or join my acrobatic friends in the park for a quick afternoon of acro! If I cant do that, I do handstands. Anywhere and everywhere. Getting upside down makes me feel better immediately. Friends, play, nature and laughter always gets me out of any pressure induced state.  Change the state, and you change the energy, which makes you more open, understanding and able to lead and/or manage to your best ability.

Do you think it is important to have a mentor?

Yes, I do.  If you want to get fit, you get a personal trainer. If you want to build a business, you get a business coach. If you lack guidance, you get a life coach. To me, a mentor has been instrumental in giving guidance and feedback in a professional setting, and if its possible to find a mentor I think it’s a great idea. I have found it helpful to have a mentor with interests quite varied to my own, allowing me to gain insight from a different point of view.

Find Jodi on social media:

LinkedIn: Jodi Salmond

Twitter: @JodiSalmond

Learn more about National Science Week here: 

National Science Week 2020

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