STEMM Profile: Dr Rebecca Koss | Science Writer | Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria | Melbourne | VIC


“Having mentors at each stage, and across various roles, of my career has facilitated my success”

Dr Rebecca Koss has more than 17 years’ international, national and statewide experience in environmental and conservation policy and strategy. Rebecca is currently a Science Writer at the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability. She is currently writing State of the Environment and State of the Yarra and its Parklands reports. As a marine scientist, Rebecca brings to the role an impressive amount of knowledge from within the Victorian water industry. She is also a Board member of the Central Coastal Board, one of three regional coastal planning advisory bodies appointed by the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water. Rebecca has a reputation for her knowledge across environmental stewardship; policy and strategy analysis and implementation; tool development, stakeholder relations, citizen science; and temperate marine ecological surveying.

Previously, Rebecca worked as an Environmental Strategy Coordinator with the Port Phillip and Western Port Catchment Management Authority; a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University; a Knowledge Broker the Environmental Protection Authority and a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool, UK on the European Union’s Options for Delivering Ecosystem-Based Marine Management program. Rebecca has contributed significantly to the field of environmental stewardship in nature conservation, a topic which was the basis of her PhD. She has also led research on public attitudes towards Victorian coasts and Australian Federal marine waters to address gaps in policy frameworks, increase understanding of public perceptions and evaluate current state of planning processes.

Rebecca has a PhD in Conservation and Environmental Management (Deakin University); a Bachelor of Science (Hons., Monash University) and she is a 2017 Recipient of the Joan Kirner Young and Emerging Leaders Program. For her volunteer work as a co-convenor for the IUCN Task Force on Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability, Rebecca received the Parcs Canada CEO Awards for Excellence in 2015.

What support structures do you have in place that have facilitated your success?

Having mentors at each stage, and across various roles, of my career has facilitated my success. In each role, I asked a senior organisational staff member to provide a non-formal mentor role to assist me in developing my knowledge, skills and acumen in areas where I lacked experience, for example, business and project management. It is important and essential for me that the mentor/mentee relationship is built on trust, mutual respect and active listening, where learning is a two-way street.

If you have transitioned careers, what was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

During my undergraduate degree training, I was certain that I wanted to become an academic in the field of coastal and marine conservation science. However, due to various experiences during my post-doctoral roles, I realised that the academic world had changed to the one I was exposed to during my time as an undergraduate student. My largest hurdle was not having a Plan B for my career. I was so focussed on wanting to become an academic that I did not create any career contingency plans. I now always advise undergraduates to have a Plan B.

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

Each great leader brings their own unique set of attributes to their role. However, I recognise that there are many attributes which resonate with me that are common across all great leaders and include: resilience, great listener, open minded, walks the talk, empowers everyone to be the best person they can be, able to make tough decisions, empathetic, doer, delivers solutions and brings everyone on the journey with them.

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

Empower women scientists to be the best person they can be. Support them on every level, not just the science, but also by bringing them along to networking events, meetings, workshops and introducing them to the right people who can boost their career opportunities. Help these women develop their emotional intelligence, personal and professional resilience, business and finance acumen, project management, public speaking and communication skills which are all essential for any professional role. 

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

There are three major elements I would do differently.

  1. Complete a double degree combining Science with Business, Finance or a Law.
  2. Have a Plan B as a career contingency plan.
  3. Continuous development of my soft skills across all roles to strengthen me being the CEO of my own brand, Dr Rebecca Koss.

LinkedIn: @rebeccakoss

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