STEMM PROFILE: Dr Melodie McGeoch, PhD | Ecologist | Monash University, Clayton | Melbourne | VIC

Dr Melodie McGeoch [image: H. Coetzee]
Dr Melodie McGeoch [image: H. Coetzee]

“It is more important to take action than to be confident”

Dr Melodie McGeoch is Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, based on the Clayton Campus in Melbourne. Dr McGeoch received her PhD in 1995 from Pretoria University in South Africa and pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom. Her research expertise is in the development and application of methods for quantifying and predicting biodiversity, and the use of these tools for addressing environmental problems, such as climate change impacts and biological invasion. Dr McGeoch was recognised for this work in 2014 with the Australian Ecology Research Award.

After more than a decade working across universities, she left to establish and direct the Cape Research Centre of South African National Parks (2008-2012), a unit established to provide the scientific evidence needed to manage environmental change in these protected areas. Internationally, her work has been influential in establishing the scientific frameworks for improving and monitoring biodiversity policy effectiveness, specifically for invasive species. Her current research programme at Monash University includes pursuing basic and applied research in these areas (for further information about her research projects and impact see melodiemcgeoch.com).

If you could give one piece of advice to Government/Universities what would it be?

One size doesn’t fit all in strategies to achieve equity. Nuanced, evidence-based policy and action is needed to provide relevant opportunities, because needs differ across career stages and fields. No two careers look the same, and scientific success comes in many forms – this diversity should be valued.

How can we best support the next generation of woman scientists?

Where woman are underrepresented, avoid disproportionately burdening them with committee responsibilities and support tasks for the purpose of achieving equity targets. I think that women are often community-minded and also voluntarily take on more of these responsibilities early in their scientific careers to the possible detriment of research focus.

What have you learnt during your career to increase your resilience?

It is more important to take action than to be confident, to do the research rather than to worry about it, and to follow your interests rather than what is expected of you.

What skills from a PhD can be applied across multiple roles (e.g. industry, business, academia, education, government)?

I spent a few years out of academia, and found that critical thinking and the confidence to question the status quo using reasoned argument is a widely relevant skill that you develop as a scientist. Coming back to university I better value the role that science must play in society.

What is your ideal holiday — and do you work on holiday?

Yes I often work on holiday. Sheryl Sandberg (COO Facebook) said “work is life and life is work” – I agree. I daily balance time spent on both as the most efficient and enjoyable way of doing things. An ideal holiday is time away to read, think and not think.

Follow Melodie on Twitter: @MelodieAM


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