International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The 11th of February marks the 5th International Day of Women and Girls in Science and this year’s theme is Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science provides a platform that recognises the critical role women and girls play in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

At Healthy Land and Water, we boast a marvellous team of intelligent, innovative and dedicated women. To celebrate, we asked the women of Healthy Land and Water what has inspired them to pursue careers in STEM and what has been the most rewarding part of their careers.

Here is what they had to say.

What inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

Julie McLellan, CEO: Pursuing a career in STEM really offers you the opportunity to explore and solve complex problems. The work you do will always be interesting and always challenging and that is why I decided to pursue a career in STEM.

Susie Chapman OAM, Senior Scientist: I was inspired to get into science by my mother. She was one of the first science graduates from the University of Queensland and was a bacteriologist. I found it wonderful the way her mind worked.

Liz Gould, Senior Principal Scientist: My interest was inspired when I was a little girl. I had a love for nature and wildlife. My grandfather further cultivated this love and my parents travelled around the world which allowed us to see many different of parts of nature. It inspired me to follow my interest in biodiversity and study science at the University of Queensland where I got a degree in ecology.

Naomi Soustal, Assistant Team Leader: I got into environmental science because during my childhood I spent a lot of time outdoors, camping, swimming, walking and fishing. I always wanted to work in a field that would help protect the environment and studying environmental science was one of those courses where I could get outdoors and work towards protecting it.

Karen Toms, Senior Scientist: From a young age I loved animals and nature which resulted in a life-long interest in protecting the environment. When I was in high school my favourite subjects were biology and geography, so when it came to selecting a university degree it was a no brainer to choose Environmental Science.

Rachael Nasplezes, Senior Scientist: In the third year of my Bachelor of Applied Science program, I travelled to South Africa for a ten-day study course at the Southern African Wildlife College. This life-altering experience inspired me to return a few months later when I graduated to work on social ecology and conservation projects for a further five years.

Vanessa Durand, Project Engineer: Spending a lot of my childhood in nature, camping, walking at my grandmother’s farm, made me curious about plants, rock formations and water. Studying science at school and later on graduating with an engineering degree gave me the tools to better understand our natural world and provided me with the opportunity to work in a field I love.


What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

Julie McLellan, CEO: The most rewarding part of my job is being able to lead people, and to make a huge difference to the natural environment and achieve great outcomes in South East Queensland.

Dr Samantha Lloyd, Principal Scientist: I really believe in what I’m doing. I believe in the values of the South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium program and what it is we’re trying to achieve. I work with brilliant people both locally, within the organisation and with other partnering organisations across the country. It makes me happy and if you can have a job that really fills your bucket, you’re a very lucky person.

Karen Toms, Senior Scientist: Working on projects that help the environment is something I find extremely rewarding. I feel blessed to have a career where I get to do something that I’m passionate about.

Naomi Soustal, Assistant Team Leader: I guess the most rewarding thing in my career is working with like-minded people to achieve outcomes to protect the environment. I enjoy working with the community to ensure our waterways are protected so that my children and their children can enjoy them in the future.

Dr Emily Saeck, Senior Scientist: Whenever I find myself at a beautiful creek, waterhole, beach or out on Moreton Bay, I feel really proud knowing all my hard work helps protect these beautiful landscapes.

Rachael Nasplezes, Senior Scientist: I work with an amazing group of people who care about what we do, who are inspiring, innovative and want to drive change and this is hugely rewarding.

Vanessa Durand, Project Engineer: To me a successful site not only means there is no more erosion, it also means native vegetation and animals are claiming the area and very importantly that the landholders are satisfied with the outcomes. A successful site not only includes an engineering solution, but also achieve the best environmental, social, economic and cultural outcomes possible, and that I find very rewarding.

Maddie George, Science Officer: The most rewarding part of my job is knowing I don’t ever have to compromise my ethics. I’m constantly gaining knowledge in areas I’m passionate about and I know I am helping improve our natural world.

Susie Chapman OAM, Senior Scientist: The most interesting area of my work is engaging in citizen science, traditional ecological knowledge, and knowledge from farmers and being able to bring it into an evidence-based approach to improve practises used for positive natural resource management outcomes.

What advice would you give to girls or women considering a career in STEM?

Liz Gould, Senior Principal Scientist: I have two teenage daughters, so my advice is the same as what I give to them: Follow your passion, don’t be scared, explore, and challenge yourself. Do the best you can and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. Science is often thought of as a traditionally male world but there are so many amazing female scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

Dr Emily Saeck, Senior Scientist: Pick a field you love and are passionate about, as this will take you further than you ever imagined. Once you get there, remember that you are the expert. Be confident in yourself and your knowledge and speak up.

Dr Samantha Lloyd, Principal Scientist: Be strong and determined in what you’re interested in and don’t let the negativity of others get in the way. Look for a balance between what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and what you’re driven to do. It’s a very fulfilling place to be in as a woman and as a working mum.

Maddie George, Science Officer: My advice would be to stand up for yourself, be confident, and don’t be afraid to follow your passion no matter how niche it is.

Karen Toms, Senior Scientist: Go for it! Choosing something that interests you and aim for a career that you’ll find rewarding and challenging. Create opportunities to get involved in volunteering and work experience whenever you can – university teaches you a lot, but hands-on experience helps you understand and apply what you’ve learnt. Have fun investigating, creating and enjoying all that STEM offers!

Rachael Nasplezes, Senior Scientist: I would say go for it! There is nothing stopping women from entering the world of STEM. The work environment is amazing. It’s flexible and you can still have children and keep your career alive. The world really is your oyster, you just need to step up and take it.

Daniela Yamaguti, Analyst Support Officer: First of all, know yourself. Know what you like to do. When you do something you love, your future is going to be great, because your job is going to be something you love doing.

Naomi Soustal, Assistant Team Leader: I’d encourage people to do subjects or topics they particularly enjoy. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll do well and it will ensure you have longevity in your career. Don’t compare yourself to other people, focus on you and the goals you want to achieve and work towards.


Join us in acknowledging the women and girls leading innovation and removing the barriers holding them back.

For more information about International Day of Women and Girls in Science please visit:

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