Dr Jess Melbourne-Thomas is focused on change — the changes in our environment, and the changes needed for gender equity in science.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas is a Research scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division and Project leader with the Antarctic Climate Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre at the University of Tasmania, and an alumnus of the University.

“My research is about understanding how marine ecosystems respond to environment and climate change, and the way humans interact with them.

For the Southern Ocean in particular, the changes in temperature and acidification that we know we’re already seeing and are guaranteed to see in the next 100 years or so, will require us to respond because they will have implications for the ways that we interact with those systems.

“One of the key tools I use is mathematical models to predict those future scenarios and feed that information back into how Southern Ocean ecosystems are managed.”

Dr Melbourne-Thomas is currently working as a Lead Author for an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impact of climate change on the oceans and the cryosphere, the ice environment which includes glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets in Antarctica and the Artic.

“I am one of five Australians on an international team involved in that report, and my group is writing a chapter around changes in the polar environment.

“I’m focusing on what the consequences might be for ecosystems and the way that we can adapt to build resilience and respond to those changes,” Dr Melbourne-Thomas said.

It’s really important we are able to work together as a scientific community and come up with robust solutions to try and work around those changes and incorporate them into our management approaches.

Dr Melbourne-Thomas in Antarctica.

Dr Melbourne Thomas is also passionate about the need for gender equity in science. She is co-founder of Homeward Bound, which in December 2016 took the largest ever all-female expedition to Antarctica. Two more expeditions will take place in early 2018 and again in 2019. And this year she was named one of the Science and Technology Australia Superstars of STEM.

I was very excited to be selected as one of the Superstars participants. It’s a fantastic opportunity to engage with a network of women who are supporting each other in building visibility.

“In Australia and globally there’s a big issue with attrition rates for women in science, particularly at senior levels. It’s not that women aren’t engaged in science, it’s that we don’t see women at those senior levels where decisions are made.

“I’m really interested in trying to find ways to help to stem that attrition rate,” Dr Melbourne-Thomas said.

To change this for the next generation, we really need to get our skates on, and be vocal about the need for change.

Keen to conduct your own research? Apply now to become a research student.