Marine science jobs can be creative too!

Marine science jobs can be creative too: Marlee Hutton and Indigenous Ranger students

Life on earth depends on the water that cycles through our atmosphere and soil, and through rivers, lakes and oceans. Scientists work to keep our water ecosystems healthy. But it’s not always in ways that you expect – and the marine science jobs in this field can include some amazingly creative possibilities.

Ceramic artist Jane Bamford has a deep love of Tasmania’s wild places and creatures within, after spending childhood holidays at Triabunna, north-east of Hobart. She was thrilled to be part of a CSIRO project to help recovery of the rare spotted handfish, an unusual fish that ‘walks’ on its pectoral fins and is found only in Tasmania’s River Derwent.

“I’m so fortunate to be part of this work with many great people, hoping to secure this species from extinction,” Jane says.

Art assist

Photo: Charles Chadwick

The fish prefer to breed by laying eggs around a stalked ascidian (sea squirt) – a species decimated by invasive sea stars, according to CSIRO scientist Dr Tim Lynch.

Spotted handfish. Credit: Alexander Hormann

That’s where Jane comes in. She’s created 3000 tiny ascidian stalk replicas from kiln-fired pure white clay, carefully handcrafted to imitate the spawning habitat of handfish. Jane’s pieces are made so that they’re easy for divers to ‘plant’ in the dark depths of the River Derwent.

“I see this project as coming from a ‘design and make’ perspective, collaborating and meeting the needs of the scientist, divers and the spotted handfish,” she says.

The good news? Wild spawning has already started to occur on the ceramic habitats that have been placed. “It looks like the spotted handfish approve!” she says.

Jane was awarded a three-month art/science residency at the University of Tasmania,
one of a range of art/science collaborative programs in Australia.

Marine expert

Marlee Hutton

For CSIRO researcher Marlee Hutton, marine science taps into her Indigenous heritage as a Bardi Jawi woman from the Kimberley Coast, where she loved to explore rock pools and fish.

Her Bachelor of Science degree from Murdoch University in Perth includes a double major in marine and environmental science. While interning in a team that was part of CSIRO’s Oceans and Atmospheres Flagship, Marlee helped to track dugongs using aerial surveys.

Indigenous rangers have been invaluable in helping researchers combine science and aerial surveys with local knowledge to track dugong populations, Marlee points out. She hopes to continue working in a liaison role with Indigenous communities, sharing knowledge about science to help them thrive.

“Local people hold so much valuable information about their environment,” she says. “I’d really like to be able to continue working with Indigenous Ranger groups.”

– Fran Molloy

Science + water worlds careers

Marine biologist: $35K–$102K

Hydrologist: $45K–$120K

Environmental scientist: $50K–$96K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

Fran Molloy

Author: Fran Molloy

FRAN MOLLOY is a freelance journalist and university lecturer whose career has spanned newspapers, radio and online publications. She writes about business, careers, research, science and environment.

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