Dr Samantha Lloyd
Healthy Land and Water’s Dr Samantha Lloyd was recently interviewed by the Ecology Society of Australia for International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Read the interview below.
Sam is the Manager of the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium (QFBC), formerly known as the South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, a program administered by Healthy Land and Water.
She has 20 years’ experience in research and environmental management and has a focus on ecology, entomology, bushfire, disaster recovery and natural resource management.
Sam has a keen interest in land management, plant-insect interactions, and weed and pest management.
What made you choose a career in the sciences?
I have always been interested in science, especially ecology and living sustainably with the natural world. As a child I always wanted to work with animals and plants and as I got older that evolved into biology and then ecology.
I have always been fascinated by the natural world, ecological processes, how it is that things co-exist and the potential for harm when we interfere with those processes. Biology was a natural choice for university, and I was fortunate enough to be inspired by, and learn from, some brilliant ecologists, which ultimately shaped my career post-university.
As I worked more in science, I also appreciated more the value of science communication, something I continue to prioritise.
Who are some of your most-admired women in science?
Professor Lesley Hughes
Lesley Hughes is a professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor professor at Macquarie University, a councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a director of WWF and a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists.
Professor Hughes’ achievements are too many to list, but what I admire about her, besides her research contributions, is her ability to maintain her research career whilst also working in leadership and advocacy roles. Her role with the Climate Council and other leadership roles provides inspiration to women in science that they can have a voice outside of their research or teaching roles.
Dr Penny Watson
Dr Watson is the first and former coordinator of the QFBC and is a “nominally retired” fire ecologist. Penny has an extensive career in science, fire ecology and education.
Penny is one of those people who inspires and energises and has given generously of her time and knowledge.
Having returned to study when her children were older, Penny went on to work extensively in fire ecology research and engagement and continues to contribute to the fire science community.
Ruby Payne-Scott (1912 – 1981)
I just love the story of Ruby Payne-Scott, she is described as a “pioneer in radio physics and radio astronomy” and worked at CSIRO. I am in no way a physicist, but what I love about this story is her determination to contribute to her profession as a scientist, regardless of the discrimination she faced as a woman.
She paved the way for Australian women in science, inspired employment of women science graduates, advocated strongly for equal rights for women in the workplace and of course made some monumental contributions to radio astronomy.
What would be your advice to other women considering a career in STEM?
Go for it! Be strong and determined in what you are interested in and what you want to achieve. Look for a balance of interest, motivation and natural ability – find something you enjoy doing, that you are self-driven to achieve in, and that you are good at.
Importantly, find a mentor and foster relationships, and be open and learn from those around you along the way. Look at the job opportunities and speak with people about what you are interested in – there are lots of different ways to work in science. If you are interested in research think about whether you are prepared to undertake post-graduate studies and potentially work overseas for a while.
What would you like to see change in the future to help improve the number of women pursuing a career in STEM?
I think there have been some fantastic advancements in terms of encouraging girls to take up STEM at school, but I’m not sure how that translates in the workplace.
I think there are many opportunities to improve the number of women working in STEM, including increased funding for PhD scholarships and post-doctoral positions, increased investment in government science agencies and departments and greater appreciation of the value of working mothers, in particular flexible work arrangements and childcare options.
My workplace has been supportive which is reflected in the gender balance at Healthy Land and Water, where more than half of the staff and more than half of the board are women.