International Day of Women and Girls in Science: 11th February 2019

Science has always had a special place in my heart, from a young age I was intrigued by the relationships between science, nature and wildlife.

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going.”

Nichelle Nichols (Actress and NASA Ambassador)

I was eight years old when I won my first Science award, it was only a class certificate, but it meant the world to me. Getting that small amount of praise really did wonders for encouraging my passion for science. Over the next few years I explored Chemistry and Physics, but I truly fell in love with Biology. During my High School days, my friends were never too sure about what career they wanted to pursue but I always knew that I wanted to pursue Biology. I was also intrigued by Social Sciences and decided to study Sociology and Geography in depth. I was lucky enough to have very inspiring teachers who encouraged my love of science and helped me at every obstacle. When I needed more work experience, my Biology teacher used her own contacts to get me into a university research department. I was surrounded by strong women in each department of my school, but it was the female Science teachers that I was most inspired by. My Biology, Geography and Sociology teachers were all women and they spent every day encouraging us all to get into science!!

So, when it came to decide upon a university course, I combined my love of Biology, Geography and Sociology and applied for an Environmental Science degree with Ulster University. I was so happy with my choice, as I was doing a course that focused so heavily on practical field work. Overtime, I have learned that I am a visual learner; I benefit from seeing information rather than reading about it. I benefit from being out in the field and doing things myself and so field trips were always my favourite part of science lessons. As part of my degree, I participated in a Tutoring program in a local High School and I got to lead the Geography lessons. This was a fantastic experience for me, as it developed my presentation and teaching skills but it was also amazing to see students getting excited about Science, Geography and Technology as I taught them about GIS. I couldn’t help but be drawn to one student; a young, shy, red-headed girl who stayed after class to ask me more questions, reminding me of myself at that age. I was asked to create a presentation to help encourage the students to pursue Geography and Environmental studies in the future. I talked about my own experiences with lectures, field work and adventures and hopefully inspired some students that day.

“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference- all the difference in the world!”

Dr. Jane Goodall (Primatologist)

After graduating, I immediately signed up to a volunteering excursion in Tenerife with the Atlantic Whale Foundation (AWF). I was excited to get out in the world and apply my scientific knowledge to environmental issues. Whilst with AWF, I was surrounded by young environmentalists from across the world, all excited to learn more about our oceans and its wildlife, with the majority of the volunteers being female. It was an inspiring and exciting environment to be in, filled with diverse people possessing a wide range of scientific knowledge. I was the only girl in the group who had experience with GIS applications, and it was pretty exciting for me to share my knowledge of the technology with other volunteers.

“It is a curious situation that the sea, from which like first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.”

Rachel Carson (Author)

I also volunteered with Mourne Heritage Trust (MHT) based in the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland. On my first day of volunteering with them, I was very eager to show my worth in the group, and so I worked as hard as I possibly could. I was the youngest person there, standing on the slopes of Slieve Donard with my shovel and I had a point to prove. It didn’t matter that I was small, weak, young or a girl. I was there to do the same work as everyone else and I impressed all the older, stronger men by working my ass off. I have never been afraid of getting my hands dirty and getting stuck in when there is a challenge in front of me. I must admit, it felt good to be praised and for my determination to be noticed.

Even when writing this blog, I try to explore the science behind everything and relate everything back to nature and the environment. I am constantly reading and watching documentaries to develop my knowledge on various topics. I am intrigued by the science behind what I capture in my photos. If I find a beautiful flower or tree that I want to photograph, it is important for me to find out what that species is and what it is it’s given Latin name. The same applies when I photograph wildlife, I want to know as much as I can about that animal so I can spread that knowledge. I see interesting cloud formations, rock formations and landscapes not only as being a great photo opportunity but as an opportunity to learn more about why they occur, why they look/act the way they do.

I am very proud to say that I am a woman in Science. Science is in my life everyday and that will never change.

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