Rachel Kelly

STEMM Student Profile: Rachel Kelly | PhD student | Social Sciences and Fisheries Research | University of Tasmania | Hobart | TAS

Thesis topic: Social licence of marine systems: Improving community knowledge and engagement in local marine industries using citizen science

Rachel Kelly profile - taken by Rachel Kelly
Ms Rachel Kelly

“I am excited to progress in my own research and aspire to also become established as a scientist and female role model to young students, taking up from the female scientists who have encouraged and inspired me on my own path”

My Bachelor degree (marine science) explored a wide range of ocean topics and disciplines and since then, I’ve focused towards marine conservation research.  I’m particularly interested in integrated approaches, determining how socio-ecological effects impact the success of conservation efforts. I consider myself lucky to have found a field of study that truly fascinates me.

Conducting my Masters degree (marine conservation and biodiversity) in Portugal, France and the US, and consequently working in Ireland and the Maldives, provided me with such great opportunities to travel and perceive ocean research (and women working in science) at an international level. It’s definitely opened my eyes to the extent and breadth of the world’s research and to the opportunities that are available to us as women, when we choose to search for them.

I’m currently a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania at the Centre for Marine Socioecology. My project is examining community understandings of the environmental sustainability of marine resource usage in Australia and the potential to adapt to increasing stressors, including population expansion and climate change.  I am very fortunate to be working under two extremely supportive and inspiring female supervisors, Associate Professor Gretta Pecl and Dr Aysha Fleming, both of whom achieve balance in their scientific work, travel and family life.

I am excited to progress in my own research and aspire to also become established as a scientist and female role model to young students, taking up from the female scientists who have encouraged and inspired me on my own path.

Rachel Kelly - taken by Rachel Kelly
Rachel combines work and pleasure – diving for science

What is it you love about science?

I love how real and applicable it is! We see and interact with the world and all of its components all day, every day and wonder ‘How does this all fit together, and why?’. Working in science allows us to investigate the world around us and address the important questions that we need and want to answer.

How important are female role models to you?

Hugely important.  Now in my mid-twenties, I’m beginning to seriously consider my career and life ambitions and the directions I am headed. I look to females in similar work roles, and senior, as guides to how I can achieve everything I hope to, and how it is actually possible to balance it all.

As a woman, early in the STEMM pipeline, has your experience been positive, or has it had some negative aspects?

Thankfully, my experience has largely been positive but as a woman, I have often felt in the minority. I was one of only a handful of girls in my bachelor cohort and most of the senior scientists at my institute were men. As I progressed to Masters, the ratios became more equal and women in science were seen more as ‘the norm’, though still all my degree coordinators were male, and my supervisors primarily so.  I think these trends are changing and I don’t feel alone in this opinion.  One of my great supervisors (male) remarked that more and more women of our generation are gaining senior status than our male counterparts because we are driven and interested and are no longer embarrassed, or feel guilty, about this drive.

How does society benefit from more women in STEMM and positions of leadership?

Society benefits because research and industry become more gender-balanced and decisions made, impacting society as a whole, reflect the opinions and knowledge of a more balanced body of scientists and managers.

What can we do as individuals to help the next generation of women in STEMM?

We can foster and encourage young girls to pursue education and give them support and confidence to follow their interests.  I don’t think it’s a matter of teaching girls that they can do anything as a girl, but that any person can do anything.  By ignoring (or, at least, negating) the gender divide from an early age we can allow girls to grow up confident in their abilities and contributions as a person, pursuing their own interests and ambitions.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @Rachel19191

[Image attributions (2): R Kelly]