Claire Stewart (@clairecology) is a PhD student in the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent. She will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Deciding what species to save”
SS: How did you get to your current position?
CS: Well a little bit of luck actually! My MSc supervisor at the University of Queensland in Australia was giving a talk about systematic conservation planning and said that the “people at Kent use this software (Marxan) too”. I was pretty homesick for the UK so later that day looked up PhD opportunities at Kent and there was one advertised on conservation planning for England with Dr Bob Smith. So I applied and feel very lucky to be here!
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
CS: Is it cheesy to say David Attenborough? I think he has inspired everyone to care about the natural world. My parents have always encouraged me to ask questions and my bedroom was covered in science posters and animal toys so they have a lot to answer for!
My undergraduate and masters supervisors have all been exceptionally encouraging so they definitely inspired me to purse an academic career.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
CS: I think when you tell someone at a party that you are a conservation scientist then they imagine you spend your day surrounded by animals. However I spend a good chunk of my day doing stats or making models which will hopefully have positive outcomes for biodiversity. I think it is fascinating that we can use math to help wildlife. I was always good at math at school, so I would have been very excited if I knew equations could help save more animals!
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
CS: I’m very passionate about women in STEM and encouraging young girls to know it is possible for them to become scientists in the future. As a kid I thought a scientist was a “boy job” so I hope being a part of Soapbox Science will show kids (and parents!) that science is not a boys jobs and can be a fun and exciting career for women.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
CS: The work-life balance. I think there can be a bit of competition over who works the most or most ridiculous hours which I think can result in people feeling inadequate or guilty if they take a few days off.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
CS: Try to not doubt yourself! I don’t think I know a single woman in science who doesn’t suffer from bouts of imposter syndrome (including me!). We can’t all be imposters, so try and focus on your achievements and the things you do know instead of what you don’t know yet. You can always learn.