Dr Jane Wasley
Scientific Officer, Terrestrial and Nearshore Ecosystems: Environmental Change and Conservation - Australian Antarctic Division
PhD Biological Sciences 2005
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biological Sciences 1997
Bachelor of Science - Biological Sciences 1995
Outline your career and life experiences since graduation
Since graduating from UOW in 2005 I have been living in Hobart and working mostly at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). I started at the AAD as a contract worker and was lucky to secure an ongoing position 2011. I have had the opportunity during this time to work on a great variety of projects in the Antarctic and subantarctic, including assessing the effects of ecosystem pressures such as climate change and rabbit grazing on plants and the clean up and remediation of contaminants in these polar environments. Environmental contaminants, primarily those associated with accidental fuel spills and legacy waste sites, have been the main focus of my role in recent years during which I have been assisting to develop clean up targets and environmental guidelines for the Antarctic and subantarctic. This work gives me a unique opportunity to work in a range of Antarctic and subantarctic marine and terrestrial environments – which has been a remarkable experience.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting work in your career?
The biggest challenge I faced when starting my career was job stability and security. Toward the end of my postgraduate degree, I made a lifestyle choice to live in Hobart which is a wonderful place to live but imposes restrictions on career options. I decided I didn’t want to move away from Hobart to pursue post-doctorate opportunities. I was lucky however to have established connections with people at the AAD during my PhD field seasons to Antarctica, and through these connections I found initial short-term contract work, which I continued in for several years. In 2011 I eventually gained an ongoing position in the Science Branch of the Australian Antarctic Division – which is where I find myself today.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
My job is varied, challenging and rewarding. I also work with a great team of people, which is really important to me.
What has been the most rewarding experience in your career?
Knowing that the work I do makes a difference to our management and understanding of critical ecosystems on our planet. I get the chance to have a hands on role in Antarctic science and the research I am involved in directly contributes to our knowledge base that helps us better govern Antarctic regions.
Where do you see your career going next?
I’m really happy in my current role and hope to continue in it for the foreseeable future.
What inspires you in your job and life in general?
I feel rewarded when I am making a positive difference and a helpful contribution to something that is important – I have to feel like I’m doing something meaningful. This is why the Antarctic Science I do at the AAD is a good fit for me; I can see how my efforts are really making a difference to improving our environmental protection of the polar ecosystems we manage in Antarctica.
On a more personal note, I am inspired by wild places – I love remote wilderness and the outdoors. This passion is the driver for the reason I decided to live in Tasmania, whose wilderness areas are an absolutely life-enriching treat to have the chance to spend time in. This love of wild and remote places also underlies my passion for the Antarctic.
What personal career goals have you achieved since leaving UOW?
I get to work in a job I love!
How did your UOW degree prepare you for your career and life?
My UOW degrees (both BSc Hons and PhD) prepared me well for my career.
I use the written and presentation skills I developed during my time at UOW on a daily basis. I also draw heavily on the scientific experimental design and analysis skills I gained a solid basis of from my UOW degrees. My field research experiences, especially those of my PhD in Antarctica, were also of obvious direct relevance to my career, which now sees me helping managing similar research projects in Antarctica.
In hindsight, what advice would you give your teenaged self?
Do what you did – go with what you love. You’re usually good at the things you enjoy most.
What are your fondest memories about your time at UOW?
I loved my degrees once I had the chance to work on independent research projects. This started for me in undergraduate subjects, where small research projects formed part of the assessment – and led to me wanting to do an Honours research project and eventually a PhD. I really enjoyed the creativity and independence of research projects.
What do you like to do when you are not working – hobbies etc?
I love the outdoors, so being out bushwalking, camping and skiing is great fun. I also love to spend time at home in Hobart, gardening, cooking and hanging out with my family.
How difficult or easy was it putting everything you learnt at UOW into practice?
I don’t think I have necessarily retained all the theory/information I learnt during my time at UOW – but in my view, this doesn’t matter, that is stuff you can just look up if you need to. More importantly what I learnt at UOW was how to find out/source any information I need to know. I also learnt how to go about tackling a new research project – of any topic. I think this has set me up well for the varied research fields I have ended up involved in – I have been able to apply my generic research skills to any new topic I find myself working on.
Are there any opportunities you wish you had taken/regrets/pitfalls?
Not really – I’m in my dream job now. Can’t say I’m disappointed at all.
I had all sorts of wonderful opportunities during my degree years – thanks primarily to my inspiring and supporting supervisors (especially Professor Sharon Robinson who was my PhD supervisor). As well as having the opportunity to do several field seasons to the Antarctic, I also during my postgraduate degree had the opportunity to take a Smithsonian Fellowship in the USA and do some of my laboratory work with colleagues in Europe, as well as attend a couple of international conferences. These were all amazing opportunities, so I think I got a pretty good deal. No regrets.
What is one aspect of UOW that you found to be the most useful for your future endeavours?
The opportunities, from early undergraduate years on, to do independent research projects and all the elements that offers (including: project development and planning, experimental design, managing logistics, literature review and write up of results for scientific journals and for oral presentations). I use the skills this encompasses on a daily basis in my science career. If my degree had been more limited to exam-based learning/assessment – I’m not sure I would have found my feet in science.