11 February is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Over the next two weeks we are highlighting some of the inspiring women scientists working in the Pacific Community.
Meet Valerie Allain – SPC Fisheries Research Scientist
Describe your work?
I am a fisheries research scientist working in the Oceanic Fisheries Programme at SPC Noumea. I work in a team where we collect data and biological samples on tuna and other fish and analyse those samples to understand the biology (reproduction behaviour, migration, growth, diet...) of the fish species but also the interactions between species (who eats who?) and the interactions between species and their environment (the spatial distribution of fish according to the water temperature for example)
Why did you decide to work in the science field?
I have always been interested by animals and nature and what I understand by all the little interesting and surprising facts you learn at school on the life and behaviour of animals. So I did not hesitate to choose to study biology when I entered university. After several years of general teaching I realised I was really interested in marine biology and I specialised in oceanography.
What impact does your work have on the Pacific region?
The studies we are doing in our team on tuna biology and ecology has an important impact on the region as it allows to better understand the fluctuations in the tuna populations. We are able to estimate the status of the stock (are tuna populations decreasing/ increasing/stable) and to predict, for example, what will be the impact of the climate change on tuna spatial distribution (will it disappear from one area to increase in another area?). Considering that tuna fisheries in our region is more than 50% of the world’s tuna catch, it has an important impact on the economies of the countries and on people’s livelihood.
Advice to other young women or girls on getting involved in STEM?
There is no doubt that girls have the same abilities as boys to get involved into science. If you are interested in science and technology do not hesitate to study it and never listen to people who pretend it is not a career for a woman.
Science is fun and interesting and is not specific to men. Girls bring another perspective to science which is as rich as men’s view and it is the association of those different points of views that make us progress.