I currently work at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania, Australia, as a post-doctoral research assistant in Antarctic biology. Previous to this I completed my PhD in Antarctic polychaetes (bristle worms) at the University of Liverpool and the Natural History Museum in London, UK. I have also worked closely with the British Antarctic Survey both in Antarctica and at their head office in Cambridge, reviewing the diversity of marine protected areas in Antarctica. Additionally, I am a big supporter of outreach initiatives for all ages, especially encouraging young people to consider careers in scientific fields.
Briefly describe your current work and your research.
I am an Antarctic biologist working at the interface between science and policy. In my PhD I studied the diversity and ecology of invertebrates that live on the seafloor around Antarctica during which I became more and more interested in how these animals and their habitats were management. I started studying marine protected areas and now I am helping researchers in Australia compile the first Marine Ecosystem Assessment of the Southern Ocean. Over the last 5 years I’ve been lucky enough to visit Antarctica. 3 times with the British Antarctic Survey, the US Antarctic Program and as a part of the all-female Homeward Bound expedition.
What do you love the most about your job?
Visiting extreme and isolated marine environments such as the Antarctic, knowing that you’re seeing a part of the seafloor that no one has ever seen before or a species that no one has ever described it pretty exciting.
Close to that include working with others I have made some incredible friends at sea, they kind of end up like your family for a short period of time and you will always have a really cool connection with them through these shared experiences. Finally working with others to deliver science that will help make a difference to how we treat the environment.
How difficult was it to get where you are today?
Uncertainty, my job at the moment is short term contract and you can sometimes feel like you are forever chasing money for research or to live. I’ll never be a rich marine biologist but I never wanted to be, I just want enough to get by and continue doing what I enjoy and making a difference but that’s hard when things are so uncertain and extremely competitive.
What was the biggest obstacle in your way before your career reached where it is today? How did you overcome it?
A lack of self-believe. At the start of PhD I thought I would never be good enough to complete it. I was comparing myself to final year students and post-docs thinking wow they have a achieved so much and I’ll never be like that.
Whilst at sea one time I heard one of the post-docs say that they used to feel the same. I started to realise that imposter syndrome is HUGE in science and I was not the only one. Feeling that way really stumped my productivity and gradually over time I realised that it was ok (normal in fact) to be unsure about things, to seek help to not be perfect. Life was a lot easier after that.
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of marine science?
Observing how our communication changes. Now more than ever communication between science disciplines, policy makers, national bodies, stakeholders…. The list goes on… is so important for marine management, conservation and monitoring under the changing climate and human pressures. To be successful we need efficient communication across the board and I think is going to be really interesting in the coming years.
How do you think we can get more women involved within marine science?
Working with schools, get kids engaged. In the past I have visited many schools as a volunteer for the UK Polar Network, a free-lance outreach worker for XXX and when fundraising for my Homeward Bound expedition. Show young children and teenagers what you can do with science, that science is outside the classroom, that there is so much we still haven’t studied. Inspire them from a young age and encourage teachers and parents to let them explore these interests. I was always encouraged to explore what I enjoyed, my parents took me to the beach to go rock pooling and whale watching, to university open days and always supported me when I chose a career path that was not familiar to them.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring female marine scientists?
You’re not on your own, there are always people that will want to work with you. Put yourself out there, talk to people, volunteer, show you have something to give and hopefully people will give back.
In one sentence, why do you think a career within marine science is a great career option?
The possibilities are endless, the people are great and the travel and fieldwork opportunities can be so incredible they are hard to describe to anyone that hasn’t been there.
Social Media Links
Twitter – @madsbrasier
Instagram – @madsbrasier
I would like to give a massive thank you to Madeleine Brasier 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 Madeleine Brasier. All photographs have been used with the permission of Madeleine Brasier.