Southern Ocean ecosystems scientist named ‘Superstar of STEM’

Female on sea ice with penguins behind her
Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas on the sea ice with emperor penguins behind (Photo: Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas)

3rd July 2017

A passion for the ocean, maths and communication has proven a powerful combination for ecosystems modeller Dr Jess Melbourne Thomas, who was today announced as a participant in the ‘2017 Superstars of STEM Program’.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas, who works at the Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, is one of 30 women selected to take part in the program.

The ‘Superstars of STEM Program’ was developed by Science and Technology Australia (STA) and is designed to equip women scientists and technologists with advanced communication skills and the opportunities to use them in the media, on stage and by engaging with decision-makers.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas said she was looking forward to helping advance connections to science - both for the community and for decision-makers.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to be part of this year’s program and I’m really excited to meet and learn from the other 2017 Superstars.”

As an ecosystem modeller, Dr Melbourne Thomas uses mathematical models of marine ecosystems to understand how the systems function and how they might respond to climate change and other human activities.

She was named Tasmania’s Tall Poppy in 2015 for excellence in research, science communication and policy engagement and is the co-founder of the Homeward Bound project and the Women in Polar Science (WiPS) network. 

The 2017 Superstars of STEM were announced by Minister for Industry, Innovation & Science Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos and STA President-Elect, Professor Emma Johnston. 

[Video]

Superstar of STEM

Video transcript

My journey into marine ecosystem modelling really started with me having a passion for the underwater world as a young thing in Tassie, and enjoying snorkeling and diving. Then, through enjoying maths and science at school and being fortunate to have encouraging teachers. We're seeing increases in the number of women that are coming through from undergraduate degrees and into postgraduate degrees. I think that diversity is really critical in science and in research. I think we're at a point where there are some very complex difficult questions that need to be addressed and that flexibility in thinking and diversity of views and creativity and different approaches is really fundamental and that applies in working across disciplines as well.

[end transcript]