We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.Joseph Campbell
My passion for animals and science was pretty clear from an early age. Growing up in New Zealand, my favourite things in the world were either playing rugby (kind of a given), going to the zoo, or watching the Magic School Bus and The Crocodile Hunter (they’re still my favourite things, to be honest). Seeing gorillas, tigers, and penguins up close? Watching a cool teacher drive around in a bus doing fun science experiments, and a ridiculously energetic zookeeper helping animals from going extinct? What’s not to like?!
But it wasn’t until I joined the science club in middle school (I know, stay with me), where I first understood that all of those passions could be put together. Luckily for me, our science teacher (my Ms. Frizzle) was also a passionate biologist and conservationist. One day, while we were dissecting some stingrays and sharks after school (see, told you), she opened our eyes to where science can go and mentioned the world of conservation science outside of ecology. Science doesn’t have to just be sitting in a lab with a lab coat on and goggles, it can be whatever you make it to be: Animals, science, and conservation – it CAN be done!
And that was that. It was the final push I needed for me to pursue a career in animal conservation – SOMEHOW, I will make it happen.
Blinded by Passion
You could probably tell from the zebras and me feeding a pair of ring-tailed lemurs that I did end up working with animals. I’ve been lucky enough to land zookeeping positions at two of the most well-regarded zoo and conservation organisations in the world – The Singapore Zoo & Night Safari, and Melbourne Zoo (Animals ☑️, conservation ☑️).
While my zookeeping career was taking off, I was also busy completing my PhD in reproductive biology at Monash University (science ☑️) fueled by another incredibly passionate biologist and conservationist: A/Prof Peter Temple-Smith. I’d convinced myself for so many years that this is what I wanted: To be some sort of David Attenborough cross Bill Nye character travelling the world saving animals with bow ties and science. It became clear to me that constantly convincing myself that I want to be a scientist wasn’t the right approach, and, eventually, I fell out of love with my lifelong dream.
Something we got drilled into us at Monash, was being able to discern fact from the fanciful, or the accurate from the questionable. It’s ‘easy’ to publish research, but it’s far harder to publish accurate, repeatable, good-quality research (Exhibit A, and B… and C).
Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE animals, science, and conservation, but I realised that perhaps wet-lab science wasn’t for me. That a career in the lab wasn’t what I was actually suited for, and that I needed to let go of what I had planned to do for most of my life. Instead, communicating that science that I loved so much moved from the back burner to the main hob. Presenting at department meetings and scientific conferences, teaching students about cryopreservation, incorporating repro-bio more into zoo settings. Everything that I learned was still there, but I was the one communicating it, not studying it; just the way I like it.
Hey presto, just like that, I pivoted from wanting to be a Bill Nye/David Attenborough hybrid, to a 100% Bill Nye fanboy. Complex science made easy. Digestible. Understandable. To quote the incredible science communicator, Dr Jen Martin: ‘Science isn’t finished until it’s communicated.’ And that’s exactly why I started this site – To bring that complex science, those difficult concepts like cancer biology, embryology, astrophysics, and animal behaviour to the forefront in a digestible, understandable way.
I’m not here to toot my own horn. I’m here to toot the horn of others and celebrate the amazing scientific discoveries being made every day, but aren’t being communicated well enough (or at all). So, if why blue whales don’t get cancer, what gravitational waves are, or how IVF can save koalas interests you, stick around, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Any questions, feel free to contact me on the form below!