International Day of Women and Girls in Science

The 11th February marks the annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science. UNESCO and UN Women implemented this day in collaboration with institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote women and girls in science.

As part of the recognition UNE Discovery Voyager has for women in STEM, we present a short biography of three of our facilitators who are also scientists: Chris Wacker, Stephanie Richter-Stretton, and Alfonsina Arriaga-Jiménez.

Caption: Chris Wacker doing fieldwork.

Dr Chris Wacker is an ecophysiologist – this just means she studies how animals are able to live where they do; how they cope with the challenges of their environment, for example, the cold. Chris recently completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of New England studying the broad-toothed rat in Kosciuszko National Park, and is now working in Science Outreach with the UNE Discovery Voyager team as their School Liaison & Bookings Officer. Chris can talk your head off about animals, torpor and hibernation, and she loves taking science to schools, sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm with students. She is very proud to be a woman in science, helping to increase our knowledge of the natural world.

Caption: Steph Richter-Stretton in the Flinders Ranges investigating a limestone outcrop.

Stephanie Richter-Stretton is a palaeontologist and PhD candidate at the University of New England. Her research focusses on the Cambrian Explosion, which occurred about 538 million years ago. This was a really exciting time in Earth’s history, as during the Cambrian Explosion most bilaterian animal groups appeared in the fossil record for the first time. Stephanie’s research will take her around the world, selecting samples and data from important sites in Mongolia and Canada. Like most palaeontologists, Stephanie’s early passion was dinosaurs, and she has volunteered for various palaeontological laboratories for over a decade. One of Stephanie’s newer passions is supporting women and girls in science, and she does this through science outreach with UNE Discovery Voyager, in addition to other, volunteer-based programs. Stephanie often reflects upon the little girl who loved dinosaurs, and thinks she would be very proud of how far grown-up Stephanie has come.

Caption: Alfonsina doing fieldwork at Mt Hyland Nature Reserve.

Alfonsina is an entomologist and ecologist with a keen interest in studying dung beetles, which constitute more than 9,000 species worldwide. She has conducted research on insects and arthropods in various locations, such as Mexico, the Mediterranean region of France and Spain, and the Gondwana forests of Australia. Alfonsina’s favorite part of her job is fieldwork, and delights in hiking for miles in mountains, forests, and travelling by boat to remote islands to do what she loves the most, hunting insects! She has even discovered new species of insects, including a dung beetle named after her. Currently, she teaches entomology at UNE and serves as a facilitator for the UNE Discovery Voyager team, where she endeavors to break down stereotypes of what scientists are like and encourage everyone to pursue a career in science.