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Jamie Hicks – Marine Biologist, Scientific Officer

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1. Science qualifications

Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology and Zoology) with first class honours

2. Path to current role?

I started my degree in Marine Biology at James Cook University shortly after graduating from high school. I went on to complete Honours at the University of QLD where I undertook research on sharks and rays investigating ecophysiology and ecology of these animals. After receiving first class honours, I began to work for Fisheries QLD before landing a role at Moreton Bay Marine where I undertook marine monitoring on grey nurse sharks and reefs.

After a few years I took a break and decided to travel the world where I worked as a dive master in Central America before returning to my home state of South Australia where I worked for almost 5 years at the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary which lead me to my current role as Scientific Officer for the Marine Ecological Survey Team which I have been in for the last 2 years.

3.What encouraged you to go into a career in science?

It sounds a bit cliché but I grew up by the sea in Port Lincoln.. so since I was a little girl all I wanted to be a mermaid who lived in the sea! I found myself at the beach every day, immersed in marine environment cultivating my fascination. I remember my parents taking me to the Investigator Science Centre where I quickly became obsessed with science.  I started reading anything I could get my hands on about the biological/ life sciences, space and the ocean. Once I started school I always favoured science subjects and started entering national science competitions. I wasn’t naturally gifted in science, so when I started university doing a double degree in chemistry and marine science it became a bit overwhelming so I started to doubt whether I could be a scientist.

I was constantly reminded by female marine scientists on Discovery channel like Dr Eugene Clark and Sylvia Earle and other female scientist mentors in my life that I could do it if I worked hard enough. I was fortunate enough to meet Sylvia Earle a few years ago where I was speechless as there were no words which could express my gratitude for how she has inspired me throughout life to keep on persisting with the career path I was on.

4. What does “a day in the life” consist of for you?

I am very fortunate that a day in the life can vary quite significantly for me. Some days I am driving the boat or the truck in the middle of nowhere, deploying Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) or diving and counting fish underwater. Some days I am more land based analysing data or writing reports…other days I am lucky enough to share my passion for the marine world with others through presentations, outreach or working with volunteers teaching them how to collect data as citizen scientists. I try to share my experiences with others so I am very passionate about science communications and the importance of connecting with others.

5. How do you use science at work and how does it contribute to the state?

I feel so fortunate to have a background in science as it is not just a discipline but a way of life, a lens in which to see the world and seek knowledge. I feel that my background in marine science is fundamental in my current role where I am involved in implementing marine monitoring programs for DEW. The work I am involved in for the agency is about assessing effectiveness of protected areas and marine biodiversity, collecting baseline data for shellfish reefs and other marine environments.

6. Tell me about a memorable moment in science or a special milestone or achievement of yours.

Last year I was fortunate enough to go on an offshore research expedition to Pearson Island where I lead the Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS) research on the trip. I experienced my Sylvia Earle moment when we were out on the high seas and successfully deployed the deepest benthic BRUVS yet in South Australia to 91m. The months leading up to the trip had been a lot of hard work and planning so to deploy without any hitch was a huge career milestone! I am so fortunate to have been to such a raw and beautiful part of our state- SA’s Galapagos Island is a place to inspire any biologist.

Another really important career milestone for me is the Reef Life Survey Citizen Science project I am currently co-ordinating where local volunteer divers are getting involved with marine monitoring and learning how to collect data for our programs. It was a huge achievement when we ran the first training back in 2017 and trained 8 new volunteers. I am really excited that we have been able to keep the project going and will run another training trip later this year in March and continue to build a community of custodians for our marine environment.

7. Why do you think women in science are important?

I feel empowered being a women in science and have so much gratitude for the journey I have had so far as I have been enabled to see and do a lot of amazing things. Marine science is a very challenging and competitive career field so I have worked really hard to get to where I am now. It is not always easy often being a female in a more male dominated field (and often the only female in the team) and it is hard to believe in yourself at times but I try hard to not see my gender as a limitation.

I take the responsibility I have to the future generation of women in STEM seriously. Women in science are important as they are needed as role models to younger women to inspire, encourage, support, mentor and empower so that we continue to have women in STEM careers. Women bring balance and value to any science team and are fundamental for the future of science.

8. Anything else you’d like to add?

Younger generations of women need to be able to envisage themselves in any diversity of role from driving the boat, driving a truck, diving to the deepest parts of the ocean, climbing the highest mountain or going to the moon! Women need to see to believe and know that they too can also do all of these things. 

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