Just in time for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science – the first in a series of teatime chats with a people in science. First up, my sister Nicola!
As long as I can remember Nicola has been fascinated by this wonderful blue planet we live on and is passionate about finding ways for humans to live sustainably within their surroundings. At university she studied geography and oceanography, before going on to study water and coastal management. This, she says, was a mix of pure science, such as understanding how pollutants affect different species, as well as policy development and management. Eventually she went into project management working on finding sustainable technological solutions to environmental challenges. Here she often works with teams of specialists from scientists to engineers to policy makers, to try to find a common solution to large problems such as the risk of flooding in populated areas.
“I am passionate about finding solutions that minimise the impact humans have on their environment so that we can live as sustainably as possible on this wonderful planet. Project management suits my personality. I like to look at the bigger picture and try to find ways of how we can work together to do things better. In flood risk management, I work with specialists from different disciplines – environmental scientists, ecologists, engineers, all of whom need to know their subject inside out. People in our field say that engineers just want to build big structures but don’t care about the environment, while ecologists just care about the environment and don’t want any human intervention. I bring them together and try to find that middle ground and a solution to the problem that doesn’t impact the environment and is technically sound.
I feel a science background is crucial for my work. I can critically evaluate information and reports, I can understand how the people I am working with work, and I can make evidence based decisions. We can develop policies that protect us and our environment based on scientific evidence. I consider myself a scientist, but because I don’t fit into a neat scientific category, I don’t think many other scientists do. But science is more relevant and far reaching than many think it is. You can do so many things with science on so many levels – it not just about working in a lab. As rising sea levels become an increasingly urgent problem, flood risk management is becoming a developing field of work, and one with a recognised skills gap. We have actually already solved the easy problems, now we need to tackle the technically challenging projects. We live on this amazing planet, and we need everyone’s combined knowledge and expertise to find solutions to live sustainably together on it.”