I was born/grew up in: I grew up in Mitchell, a small farming community in southwestern Ontario
I now live in: Dartmouth, NS, Canada
I completed my training/education at: I completed my BSc in Marine Biology and MSc in Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. I then moved to Perth, Australia to complete my PhD in Marine Biology at the University of Western Australia. In 2019 I started as a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and in spring 2020 I will join the University of Aberdeen as Assistant Professor in Marine Biology.
What I do at work
As a postdoctoral fellow, I continue to learn and develop skills as a researcher. My main activity is to research genome-wide patterns of adaptation in marine species. I do this by analysing environmental and genomic data and preparing scientific papers. I am also continuing my investigations into colour pattern diversity and evolution in nudibranchs. I contribute to scientific societies, attend conferences, and mentor students. I use a variety of different skills at work, including SCUBA diving for field collections, molecular biology techniques for DNA sequencing, and computer programming and coding for data analysis.
My career path is
I knew I wanted to be a marine biologist in my early high school years. I attended the University of Guelph because of their facilities and strengths in marine science. I volunteered for several years in a freshwater mussel lab during my undergraduate degree and this was my first introduction to hands-on research. I also participated in two field courses in the sub-Arctic and New Brunswick and volunteered as a research assistant for Operation Wallacea in Honduras. The field courses allowed me to direct my own research and they were also important in influencing my decision to complete an MSc degree in Integrative Biology at Guelph.
Following my MSc degree, I moved to Australia for research internships at the National Marine Science Centre and the Australian Museum. It was here where I met my future PhD supervisor. She was instrumental in inspiring me to pursue a doctoral degree in marine evolutionary biology in Australia.
I am motivated by
I've always been passionate about spending time underwater and observing marine life. This was what led to my career as a marine scientist. Fieldwork is still one of my favourite parts of this career because it allows me to connect with the animals I'm studying and gives me a more complete understanding of their biology.
During my university education, I became interested in two different things. First was the evolution of marine biodiversity, with a particular interest in invertebrates, and second was how DNA could be used to uncover new species and better understand their evolutionary history. This career involves a lot of self-motivation and in fact one of the most rewarding aspects for me is seeing a project come to completion. This means I now enjoy writing as much as fieldwork!
How I affect people’s lives
My doctoral research uncovered several new species of marine mollusc in Australia and Antarctica. This improved our understanding of the evolutionary relationships between molluscs and the evolutionary processes generating new diversity. This work is important for battling the current biodiversity crisis. It also adds to our scientific knowledge. My current research investigates how climate change could affect Arctic Charr populations in Canada. What I learn has significant implications for how we manage this commercially important fish species.
Outside of work I
My favourite outdoor activities are hiking and running. My favourite indoor activities are yoga, cooking, and trying new craft beer. Living in Australia for 5 years also sparked a keen interest in bird watching and I now enjoy looking for Atlantic shorebirds.
My advice to others
For people interested in a career in marine science I would say the single most important thing I learned was the value of resilience and grit. A career in science involves a lot of 'smart' work and determination, but the results can be extremely satisfying and fulfilling. I couldn't imagine doing anything else with my life! I chose my undergraduate university based on what they offered (University of Guelph offered a Marine and Freshwater Biology major). They also offered interesting field courses in polar, temperate, and tropical locations. This combination allowed me to be immersed in marine science. I would suggest taking bioinformatics courses throughout your undergraduate degree as these are now crucial skills for any role in the natural sciences.