Nicole Hellessey is an Antarctic Marine Scientist based at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, Australia. From a young age Nicole was interested in Marine Science and was often found with her head (and hands) in the rock pools at the beach. Nicole is currently completing her PhD on krill oils in a changing environment and enjoys doing science communication and outreach in her free time.
Briefly describe your current work and your research.
I’m a PhD student at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart, Australia and I’m studying krill oils and how they are changing in the environment. My goal is to keep the krill fishery sustainable now and into the future.
What do you love the most about your job?
I love working with samples from Antarctica and of course going there. But being in the lab and aquarium doing experiments is probably the best part of my day to day work.
How difficult was it to get where you are today?
It was pretty difficult. There were a few bumps along the way to get here, some expected and others were extremely unexpected. That being said, it all meant that I could be here doing this incredible research now.
What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?
I became unexpectedly pregnant in the last semester of my Bachelor’s degree. I had never considered having children nor having one so young (21). There was a lot of processing that I had to do about whether to keep it or not, if I could stay in academia and complete my Masters as planned or not and if I had the finances and ability to raise a child in a way that I would be okay with.
I was very lucky to have a support system both outside and within the academic system that helped me not only complete my Masters with a toddler under my feet but to now be nearing the end of my PhD with a wonderful bright 7 year old by my side as my biggest supporter. Travelling for conferences and for field work has been hard as a single parent but I wouldn’t change it now for the world.
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?
At the moment technology has been exploding in science with drones, Crisp-R and micro genome sequencers changing how we conduct science. I can’t wait to see what other inventions are just around the corner! I also love that there seems to be a shift from studying pollution and its effects to have to mitigate it from the start and clean what has been caused already. But I think the cultural shift possibly isn’t keeping pace, and we need to include social scientists in the debate too.
How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?
I think there are already a lot of women in Marine Science but they are not as well promoted or given the chances to speak out like some male colleagues. We are catching up to gender equality in Marine Science more so than other areas (like Engineering) but of course numbers are one thing, how they are distributed and at what levels is still not great.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?
Volunteering is far more important than you think. I got a lot of my bigger breaks in science through volunteering with other researchers and organisations than I did through following the “common” pathways.
In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?
The ability to travel and work with hugely different species and people all over the globe is wonderful and enlightening.
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I would like to give a massive thank you to Nicole Hellessey for participating in this interview. I cannot wait to share more of your stories and I hope that you find inspiration in learning of other journeys within marine science.
Are you a woman working within marine science? Would you like to share your story and inspire the next generation? Please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be involved with the Leading Women in Marine Science Interview Series.
Disclaimer: All responses to the interview questions and the biography belong to Nicole Hellessey. All photographs have been used with the permission of Nicole Hellessey.