I am an environmental scientist whose research focuses on the social dimensions of environmental problems. Basically, this means that I focus on how humans interact with their environment, rather than studying ecosystems or ‘the environment’ as a separate entity. I have great admiration for the environmental scientists who are very passionate about a particular topic within the broad field that is environmental science, such as wetlands, forests, water, birds, etc. However, I have always found myself more engaged in the human elements, e.g. deforestation, urban sprawl, environmental justice, risk perception, psychology and behaviour. After working for nearly a decade after university, I returned to do my PhD. My research focused on understanding the institutional aspects of biodiversity conservation. When I say ‘institutions’, I basically mean the rules and norms (both spoken and unspoken) that drive behaviour of organisations and individuals. Institutions are part of governance, which is basically who decides, why, and how. People think institutions and governance are obscure, but they really do touch our daily lives. We govern our households. Marriage is an institution. We make decisions, and how we approach those decisions is in the realm of governance.
In addition to my research, I spend much of my time thinking about science, skepticism, and critical thinking. I am particularly interested in why we behave in the ways we do, and how we can change behaviour at the individual and organisational level to reduce our impact on the environment and improve environmental management. I was fortunate enough to work for an amazing mentor whose PhD is in cognitive psychology, and doing so helped solidify the importance of understanding human beings if we are to change the way we interact with our environment. I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing work that is intellectually challenging and personally satisfying, so the line between what I think about for “fun” and what I think about for “work” is a fuzzy one. This was particularly the case over the course of my PhD. Now that my thesis has been submitted for examination (yay!), I feel like I am again joining the rest of the world. It feels good.
I am an American ex-pat with dual (Australian) citizenship. I moved to Perth, Australia 8 years ago because I was offered a job opportunity with the aforementioned mentor. I had been working in a more typical environmental consulting firm, doing things like sampling soil and water and digging up contaminated soil. It felt good to be doing hands-on work that had tangible results, but I found the intellectual challenge to be lacking and the focus on moving contamination from site to landfill to be frustrating. When one of the most intelligent professors I had in University offered me a job in Australia, I seized the opportunity. Originally here on a 4-year skilled business visa, I laughed when people told me I would end up getting married to an Australian. I was 25 when I arrived, and I never thought I would get married. And certainly not in my 20s. Well, I was wrong. Five months into my stay in Australia, I met my future husband. We got married in 2010.
Recently, we have moved to the United Kingdom. I live in a lovely little peninsula called the Wirral, and I am likely to write more about that in the future. Although I love this little island, the shock of moving to a place without a proper summer has certainly set in and is in stark contrast to the sunny climes to which I’d become accustomed.
I spend most of my free time exercising (running, weight lifting, yoga), trying to find natural areas, hiking said natural areas, reading, writing, and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking (and eating, of course).
I am absolutely, 100%, without a doubt…obsessed with wombats. I think they are the greatest animal on the planet. The two wombats on my header were photographed in Maria Island by my friend Suzie. You can see more pictures from my bucket list tour of Tasmania here.