Dads in Science

Working towards gender equity in science requires supporting equal opportunities for men and women to participate not only in work, but also in life at home. This fathers day we wanted to recognise that many of our best scientists are Dads too. Here we share a few stories about how some our colleagues draw inspiration from their children and what they hope for their children’s futures.

Dr Wade Hadwen, Lecturer

Some of my most memorable science has not been published in journals. It has not been presented at conferences and it has not won any awards. But it has been with my son, Eli.

Wade and his son go snorkelling at Moreton Island

Eli and I are particularly close (his Mum passed away when he was just 20 months old) and we share, among other things, a deep interest in the natural world. I have taken Eli on numerous field trips (including training courses with International visitors) and we have been on many walks together exploring the natural world.

He is the only boy I know that stops to look (and makes me stop as well) at algae in streams, or small sundews growing near watercourses, or grasshoppers in the forest – these are the natural science moments that inspire me the most, as I get to see, feel, taste and touch the world through the eyes of my son.

He has always loved the water (probably in no small part due to the fact that his parents both did aquatic ecology PhDs!), so he has often helped me collect invertebrates and fish – at first it was a curiousity, but it has developed into something that we share with each other, and, increasingly share with others.

We have taken our bug collections to Eli’s classrooms – to share the wonder of the natural world – and one of the party activities at Eli’s 8th birthday was a sampling activity in the dam on our property. I’m not sure that all of the kids liked it as much as Eli and I did (the leeches freaked a few of them out!), but it was his party!

At the end of the day, I find that being a Dad has made me a better scientist and a better communicator, as I seek to inspire and educate my son and encourage him to also share his knowledge with his friends. Seeing him talk about dragonflies, or leeches, or sundews, makes me incredibly proud and all the more interested in the world around us.

Dr Harry Balcombe, Researcher

As a parent and scientist I have tried to impart the importance of valuing our healthy lifestyle and the advantages this provides compared to people in many other parts of the world all of which would not be possible without a healthy functioning environment. One of my favourite scientific expeditions with my two boys was to “Murra Murra” an aboriginal property on Nebine Creek in the upper Murray Darling Basin.  We hung out with the Koooma traditional owners, caught fish for them to see how their waterholes were looking, took part in a carp catching contest and got a different perspective on the world, they still talk about it.

While “gaming” seems to be a modern day phenomenon that I don’t understand they can still take time out to appreciate what is around them, Whether it be at the beach or watching the crazy possums and scrub turkeys in the back yard they still do appreciate the importance of the flora and fauna around them.  Hopefully as they get older, whatever they do they will promote the importance of looking after our world.

Dr Chris Brown, Researcher

The last year and half, since my son was been born, has been tumultuous. Lack of sleep, fitting in work meetings between childcare drop-offs and all the crying has been tough. Also, just when you think you have mastered some aspect of parenting, like childproofing the kitchen, he ups the game by figuring out how to push a box so he can reach the bench.

Chris exploring QLD’s rainforest with his son.

But being there as a father and seeing my son grow is immensely satisifying and inspiring too. In the time it took me to finish revisions on a paper (a month) he went from lying flat on his tummy to crawling. It helps put work in perspective.

I hope to encourage a love and appreciation for the natural world in my son. The amazing thing is, he just picks it up by watching his parents. All we have to do is make sure we bring him along and encourage him. He knew how to pick up binoculars the first time he grabbed them, because he had seen us do it. And he is a great with his watering can in the garden, without any instruction.

I learned my passion for natural sciences from both my parents who always encouraged us to explore the natural world. I hope I can pass on this passion to my son.

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