Ms Georgia Watson

STEMM professionals invited to share mental health impacts of climate research work

STEMM professionals invited to share mental health impacts of climate research work

Effects of climate anxiety and eco-grief to be measured

University of Wollongong (UOW) researcher Georgia Watson is part of a group of scientists investigating the emotional impacts of analysing the climate crisis on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) professionals.

The team are calling for industry professionals at all stages of their careers, including students and volunteers, to respond to a survey that explores the extent to which they are affected by climate anxiety and eco-grief. People of all genders and career paths are encouraged to share their experiences.

While not a clinical diagnosis, climate anxiety is used to describe feelings of anxiety, helplessness, stress, worry and frustration about the effects of climate change. Eco-grief is a feeling of despair, loss, helplessness and grief in response to the destruction of ecosystems, biodiversity and landscapes.

Ms Watson said the study aims to investigate the mental health impacts STEMM researchers may experience as a consequence of the knowledge, importance and urgency their roles require.

“As a research team connected to a large network of women in STEMM, we want to understand how the experiences of eco-grief and climate anxiety manifests in people’s lives within this network and also beyond it. Are they changing their behaviour as a result of these experiences, are they coping, do they have the tools to manage and if not, how can we support them to continue to succeed?” Ms Watson said

“This survey is a tool for us to both identify the prevalence of these experiences and to raise awareness for these phenomena, so that people don’t feel so alone in these experiences and can move past them. We need every innovator, leader and purpose-driven person using their skills to tackle the climate crisis and come up with climate solutions, so to have people disengage with their careers because of eco-grief would be a huge loss.

“As an ecologist and science communicator, I know I personally feel the weight of understanding the climate impacts on our natural world. When news came out of Antarctica at the end of last year about the breeding failure of Emperor penguins due to record losses in sea ice around the continent, I really couldn’t bring myself to engage with the news. At the time I was working in Antarctic science and this news was just so heartbreaking to me, I couldn’t even share it with my science communication networks lest I subject them to the same feelings of grief and loss.”

The study is being conducted by seven women researchers who are connected by their participation in Homeward Bound Projects – a global leadership initiative to connect and promote the impact of women and non-binary people with STEMM backgrounds, working towards climate action. The cross-disciplinary team includes experts in social science, ecology, biodiversity conservation, climate impacts, gender equity, medical science, public health and science communication. 

The research team includes Dr Alexandra Knight from Charles Sturt University, Ms Georgia Watson from University of Wollongong, Ms Jessica Leck from Charles Sturt University and OceanEarth Foundation, Dr Helen McGuire from the University of Sydney, Dr Susi Seibt and Dr Charis Teh from University of Melbourne and Dr Katharina Fabricius from Australian Institute of Marine Science.

The survey closes on Friday 19 April and will take up to 15 minutes to complete. The survey can be completed online at