Women whose research will change the world

One of my favourite things about being an academic is watching postgraduate students grow into intelligent, critical and capable researchers. At the moment, I am lucky to be part of a supervisory team for two excellent students who have been on the receiving end of multiple awards and accolades, while also holding down jobs and carrying out research for their PhDs: Michelle Linklater and Stephanie Duce.

I thought it might be nice to use my blog as an excuse to do some showing off about them before they graduate and move on to exciting things!

Michelle was recently featured in the Sydney Morning Herald as one of “Six Women Whose Research Will Change the World”. She has taken part in several research cruises that led to the discovery of a rare sub-tropical reef around  Lord Howe Island and the neighbouring volcanic peak of Ball’s Pyramid. Michelle’s work has extended the known distribution of coral reefs even further south (away from the tropics, where reefs normally grow). Within the context of climate change having negative effects on the coral of the Great Barrier Reef, the exciting thing about the southerly location of the reefs Michelle studies is (in Michelle’s words): ““It seems that hopefully these deeper subtropical reefs are acting as a refuge for coral communities and the increased temperature of the East Australian current is actually encouraging growth of some corals.”


Michelle Linklater, Lord Howe Island

During Michelle’s PhD candidature, she has won a series of awards, including the Australasia Hydrographic Society Education Award, the Australian Marine Science Association Three-Minute Thesis competition and a Global Challenges Student Research Award. We have also recently learned that she has had her first research paper, entitled “Submerged fossil reefs discovered beyond the limit of modern reef growth in the Pacific Ocean?” published in the journal Geomorphology.

Stephanie Duce is currently doing her PhD at the School of Geosciences in the University of Sydney. Steph researches Spur and Groove formations around coral reef platforms, with a focus on the reefs of the Capricorn-Bunker Group (southern GBR) and Moorea (French Polynesia). Many of the classic hallmarks of a successful researcher can be seen in Steph’s PhD experience over the last few years, her curious mind has taken her to several exotic fieldtrip and conference locations, she is a disciplined and hard worker (we pulled many anchors together as part of our Coxswains training!), who combines excellent field skills with an ability to critically evaluate information and make creative spatial models to express some of the weird and wonderful things she has learned about spur and groove!

Stephanie Duce driving a fieldwork boat, Capricorn Bunker Group (GBR)

Stephanie Duce driving a fieldwork boat, Capricorn Bunker Group (GBR)

During Steph’s PhD candidature, she has won the Australian Coral Reef Society Student Award (2015), a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Science for Management Award and the Australian Federation of Graduate Women’s Tempe Mann Travel Scholarship.

Just over 50% of PhD students are women. Unfortunately that proportion slims down moving further along the path of potential academic career pathways. It is very satisfying to see two excellent examples of women researchers making a difference at what is still a relatively early stage of their careers! I hope that they continue to build their legacies of productive and meaningful research in the years to come (and that I get to keep on working with them!).

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