Left to right – Kaylene Morris. Khorloo Batpurev and Louise Durkin.

Whether they’re driving through the Gobi Desert with Mongolian ecologists, saving the environment in Madagascar, or leaving a successful nursing career to satisfy a fascination with the natural world, the working lives of many of DELWP’s women scientists are certainly intriguing.
Monday 11 February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which aims to promote science to women and girls and break down barriers.  
According to the United Nations, bias and gender stereotypes are steering women and girls away from science related fields. In higher education globally, women make up less than three per cent of information and communication technology students, only five per cent of maths and statistics students and eight per cent of engineering and manufacturing students.  
To celebrate the work of female scientists, we’ve spoken to three of the 24 women scientists currently working at DELWP’s Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research (ARI).
Wildlife ecologist, Louise Durkin, joined DELWP in 2013. Before that, she travelled the world on research expeditions which took her to Madagascar, Cambodia, Nepal and the UK.

A girlhood love of animals and a teenage passion for the environment drew her to study zoology. “I had dreams of saving the world but have realised it’s more of a long-term game and returned from stints in exotic locations to work with the department on local conservation challenges.

“I’ve found few barriers as a woman working in science at DELWP, so long as you’re passionate and persistent.
“I feel fortunate to work with many great female and male scientists, and for the efforts of earlier women trail blazers who have made the path smoother for women scientists of my generation.”

For Kaylene Morris, aquatic ecologist, the journey’s been a little different.  
After a decade of nursing, Kaylene was driven by a curiosity about the natural world to study science, gaining a PhD.  She joined DELWP nine years ago after working in a post-doctoral position at Monash University.
“I’ve come through at a time when there were fewer women leaders in science,” says Kaylene.  
She says in the past it was tough for women scientists who took time out to have a family to remain competitive.
“People are now understanding that what you can achieve is relative to the opportunities you have. DELWP in particular has become very good at recognising that and having a flexible work environment that recognises the challenges of balancing career and family.”
For Khorloo Batpurev, who is just starting out, a scientific career offers many exciting possibilities.
With a Masters in Botany, her set of skills allows her to do both ecological field work as well as the number crunching that comes with modelling and data analyses. That’s already taken her to Mongolia’s Gobi Desert with other DELWP scientists.
"ARI scientists were asked to develop an ecosystem condition metric of the Gobi Desert, which indicates that the science ecologists do at DELWP is relevant to ecosystems on the other side of the world.  

"As a young scientist, to work on such an exciting project and be taken under the wings of experienced and encouraging ARI scientists, I felt very welcomed to the organisation."

So, is it tough for young women scientists as they begin their careers?

“A lack of experience, perceptions of women in the workplace and how that affects confidence can have an impact, but so far, I haven’t faced any barriers,” says Khorloo.

DELWP’s women scientists make invaluable contributions across the department and for the communities we serve. However, women are still underrepresented in scientific research. Removing barriers to gender equity in science will take commitment from employers and staff but supporting a more diverse work place will have immense benefits for the sector.

Page last updated: 27/07/20