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Michelle Sexton

Environmental advisor

Michelle Sexton is an Environmental Advisor and outdoor drone pilot.

Michelle Sexton says she got into environmental science to combine her “love of being outdoors, with helping the environment, which in turn benefits society and future generations”.

“I wanted to be a part of a group finding innovative solutions to the serious environmental challenges the world is facing,” she says.

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Now as an environmental advisor for Rio Tinto Iron Ore in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, she reckons she has one of the coolest jobs in the mining industry.

“I never thought I would be out flying drones as part of my day-to-day work,” she says, “but that’s exactly what I get to do. We use them to examine tree health and overall ecosystem health in remote and hard-to-reach places; we’ll probably use them more in the future.”

Computer modelling and a computer system called GIS (geographic information systems) were parts of Michelle’s science degree at the University of Western Australia that she now uses a lot in her job every day.

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“I was on the Rio Tinto graduate program, which taught me how my uni-learnt skills transfer to real-world scenarios under a mentor,” she says. “At the end of the program they helped me find a suitable role to apply for, too.”

Small changes, big impact

Michelle says her favourite thing about her job is the diversity. “On any day I could be helping to set up projects that will improve water efficiency, looking at dust models, or spending a week on the beach monitoring turtle nests.”

Michelle is one of almost 10,000 environmental scientists employed in Australia’s resources sector, according to the Minerals Council of Australia – making the industry the country’s third biggest employer of environmental scientists. They’re role can include enforcing environmental regulations, proposing solutions to reduce environmental impact and developing conservation and sustainability policies.

Through her job, Michelle has also done a lot of STEM outreach volunteering. “I volunteered for RoboCup, the competition to promote robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was really encouraging to see how many school kids were into this and great to be able to tell them how many different STEM-based disciplines were coming through in the resources industry: things like robotics, drones, AI and machine learning,” she says. – Matthew Brace

Michelle’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Science, (conservation biology and environmental science), University of Western Australia
  • Graduate, Rio Tinto
  • Environmental Advisor, Rio Tinto Iron Ore
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