Seaside summer holidays are among the happiest childhood memories of many Australians. For Professor Martina Doblin, they sparked a lifelong fascination with the mysteries of the sea and the fundamental connection between ocean and human health.
Martina is an oceanographer and leads the Productive Coasts research program within the Climate Change Cluster in the Faculty of Science. She has recently been promoted to professorial level following completion of a year-long Mentoring for Promotion program targeting the faculty.
“What’s so valuable about the Mentoring for Promotion program is that you’re supported for a successful application, as opposed to just being supported to write it,” she says.
“I was mentored by a senior female scholar from another faculty, and she was able to offer a new perspective to help go beyond my strong rationale in the sciences to convince a panel of people who weren’t necessarily experts in my field. The program is designed to offer a clear sense of benefit for the mentee and the success is shared.”
Martina says that the program is testament to UTS’s commitment to advancing the careers of women in science into leadership.
“One of the first conversations that we had was around what professorship means. You can, and should, have a more senior role if you’re an established professional, and you can exert your influence for the broader benefit, both inside UTS and beyond.”
You can, and should, have a more senior role if you’re an established professional, and you can exert your influence for the broader benefit, both inside UTS and beyond.
Martina’s current research addresses a significant and important problem, looking at how microscopic photosynthetic algae called phytoplankton, respond to changes in their environment over both short and long evolutionary time scales. She is driven to discover how our oceans will function as they become warmer and the climate becomes more variable.
“Our current understanding of how marine biota adapt to environmental change is based on long-term records at key ocean locations, but floating plankton have a different perception of their habitat because they drift in ocean currents,” she explains.
“Photosynthetic microorganisms underpin all of the production-based ocean ecosystem services, and they impact human health by forming harmful algal blooms, supporting biodiversity and regulating the climate. Changes at the base of the food web will have far-reaching consequences for ocean ecosystem services in Australian waters, worth more than $42 billion annually to the economy.”
She is also part of a transdisciplinary research team leading a new citizen science project, engaging everyday Australians to play with ocean data to bridge gaps in scientific knowledge. Participants will share the experience of phytoplankton as they drift in ocean currents, and gain a greater appreciation of the impacts of warming on the functioning of the planet.
For Martina, advancing her career to professorial level through the support offered at UTS has not only given her a platform to extend the impact of her work — it has also opened up an exciting opportunity to become a more visible role model for women in STEM.
“In the faculty, there haven’t been all that many women at professorial level as role models for students to look up to — and not only in the sciences, but for young women in other disciplines as well. If people can see evidence of others having done it, that hard work and leadership can lead to professorship, it’s an aspiration they can realise.”
Photography: Andy Roberts