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Dr Maddy McAllister

Marine archaeologist

Marine archaeologist

Marine archaeologist Dr Maddy McAllister combines her love of the ocean with archaeology to bring shipwrecks to the surface and into the digital realm

As a child, Maddy roamed her local beach on the southwest coast of Western Australia. She
considered becoming a marine biologist, but was also fascinated by history. “I put them together to study maritime archaeology,” Maddy says.

Maritime archaeologists investigate submerged human artefacts such as shipwrecks. This involves scuba-diving as well as office and lab work. Maddy is based near the Great Barrier Reef in Townsville as the senior curator of maritime archaeology at the Queensland Museum Network. Many ships met their ends on the treacherous reef and left intriguing artefacts behind. “We have about 8000 shipwreck artefacts. Everything from hull timbers,
cannon balls, plates and bottles, to pieces of leather and ivory instruments,” Maddy says.

Follow your passion

Maddy’s career has taken her around Australia and overseas. After a Bachelor of Archaeology and Master of Maritime Archaeology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Maddy became an assistant curator at the Western Australian Museum. One of her projects took
her to Oman in Saudi Arabia to study underwater artefacts. Maddy’s museum work led into her PhD, during which she used digital photos of some of WA’s earliest shipwrecks to create 3D models.

After working as a maritime archaeologist for Heritage Victoria in Melbourne, Maddy took up her current role. She’s continuing to use technology to help everyone experience the thrill of an undisturbed shipwreck.

Maddy says arts and science are also good paths to archaeology. And she suggests getting creative with your career.

“Roles might not be exactly in your field, but they could be a combination of heritage management, museums or research that fits with your interests,” she says.

Maddy’s STEM study and career path to become a marine archaeologist

  • Bachelor of Archaeology, Flinders University
  • Master of Maritime Archaeology, Flinders University
  • Assistant Curator, Western Australian Museum
  • PhD (Archaeology), University of Western Australia
  • Maritime Archaeologist, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Vic.
  • Senior Curator, Queensland Museum Network

This profile was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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