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Dr Kathryn McMahon

Marine scientist

Dr Kathryn Mcmahon

We chat to Dr Kathryn McMahon about her study and career path. Plus her tips for the scientists of the future

Kathryn McMahon is Associate Dean of Research at the School of Science at Edith Cowan University (ECU) and an Associate Professor of the Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research. This means she is heavily involved in all research at ECU’s School of Science – from computer and security science, to chemistry and natural sciences. Kathryn also teaches environmental, coastal and marine courses at ECU. Here’s what she has to say about conservation careers in the science world…

Did you always love science?

I loved science as a child. As a four-year-old I spent a year travelling around Australia in a van with my family, so the national parks and campgrounds were my backyard. It instilled a curiosity in me for the environment and influenced me to choose biology in high school, and then botany and zoology for my undergrad majors.

Can you talk us through your study and career path?

During my degree, I studied the health of seagrasses in Geographe Bay (Western Australia). It was a great way to be exposed to research and I was hooked. After graduating, I had the travel bug, and I spent most of my 20s on adventures, sailing along the west and northern coast of Australia, from Madagascar to Africa, and then exploring southern and eastern Africa in a Kombi van. But I was drawn back to research and applied for a PhD scholarship at the University of Queensland, seven years after completing my undergrad degree. From then, I’ve worked as a postdoctoral fellow, then senior research fellow at ECU and, after 11 years, I transitioned to an ongoing position as a teaching research scholar here at ECU.

Any cool projects you’re working on right now?

One of my current research areas is to investigate the resilience of coastal ecosystems to human impacts, including climate change.

What makes science + conservation an exciting career path for a young person to consider right now?

There is so much to do to improve conservation outcomes for Australia. So if you like to work in teams, spend time in the environment and can think creatively, it’s an excellent time to consider this career path.

What’s your advice for students?

Pursue your passion, start building your network and keep learning – new ideas and solutions are needed to improve conservation outcomes.

Kathryn’s’ study and career pathway

This article was created in partnership with Edith Cowan University (ECU) and originally appears in Careers with STEM: Science 2022.

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