Cass Hunter is an Indigenous social ecological researcher with the Coasts program in CSIRO, Cairns. She shares her STEM journey with us below.
“I’ve always had strong family ties to Far North Queensland, which is where I’m currently working and raising my family. My parents and grandparents grew up in the region – my Grandparents are both Kuku Yalanji and my grandmother is from Mabuyag Island in the Torres Strait.
“Being a researcher was not something I set out to do. At high school I wasn’t inspired by experiments with bunsen burners and writing lengthy reports. Instead, I wanted to be a park ranger because I could work outdoors and in some way help protect the environment!
“At the end of grade 12 my dream of wearing a ranger uniform and cruising around in a 4WD changed pretty suddenly when I stumbled across a CSIRO Marine Division pamphlet about an Indigenous cadetship program in Brisbane. It was a great opportunity so I applied and was successful. I worked with and was mentored by some supportive researchers – one [Tim Skewes], who has remained my mentor ever since. The cadetship was my stepping stone from life as a student to that of a researcher.”
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“Completing a PhD in Quantitative Marine Science was the most challenging time of my life but at the same time my skills grew so much because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I got the word ‘spirit’ tattooed on my foot as a constant reminder of what it took to complete. It is an experience that shapes you and stays with you for life!
“I’m currently working in the space of Coastal Indigenous Livelihoods. I’m part of a team that is helping to set up a new Indigenous Science and Engagement (ISE) program at the CSIRO! It’ll focus on co-developing new science opportunities and undertake cutting edge science by and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
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“I’m particularly interested in mapping out the layers of questions involved with stepping through the process of setting up a community-run enterprise in the context of the blue economy.
“Keen for a career as a research scientist? Be adaptable and resilient and make sure you find a mentor!”
Cass’ study and career pathway to becoming an Indigenous social ecological researcher
- Bachelor of Environmental Science, Griffith University
- Honours, Fisheries stock assessment modelling project, University of Queensland
- Quantitative Marine Science, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania
- Indigenous Social Ecological Researcher, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere
Author: Cassie Steel
As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.