Dr Helen Beddow (2)

International Women & Girls in Science Day: In Conversation with Dr Helen Beddow, Climate Content & Knowledge Lead, Cervest

Dr Helen Beddow (2)In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’ve interviewed some of Cervest’s pioneering women climate scientists about what inspires them, why they chose their specialist fields, and how they overcame any challenges they’ve faced in their careers.

Helen is an experienced content manager, writer and editor with a research background in climate science. In academic publishing, she was responsible for the strategic management and development of academic journal portfolios and book lists. At Cervest, she communicates climate science to different sectors and disciplines in creative, accessible, and engaging ways. Helen completed her doctorate at Utrecht University, where her research focused on reconstructing climate through stable isotope records to track changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet and global carbon cycle on orbital timescales

In this blog, we’re talking to Dr. Helen Beddow, Cervest’s Climate Content and Knowledge Lead, about her obsession with Antarctica, society’s narrow view of leadership, and her role educating people and organizations about Climate Intelligence.

Helen, could you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do at Cervest?

I am Helen Beddow, Cervest’s Climate Content and Knowledge Lead.

My role involves leading the education and training around Climate Intelligence – asset-level business intelligence for managing climate risk. As a subject matter expert, I also help evangelize the need for Climate intelligence with external audiences, including customers, partners, and the press.

Accessibility is important, but that doesn’t just mean making Climate Intelligence easy to understand. It’s also important to communicate climate science to different sectors and industries in creative and engaging ways that help them discover and manage their physical risk so they can make climate-informed decisions.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in climate science?

Since I was very, very young, I have been obsessed with Antarctica – a whole continent covered in ice! This is why I chose to study physical geography at university; I wanted to understand ice sheet dynamics. There has been an ice sheet on Antarctica for roughly 34 million years, and looking at how it has changed and interacted with the climate over long periods of Earth’s past is what my research focused on.

I think I’m very lucky because I’ve always been able to follow what I am interested in. That has led me to a great role at Cervest, a company combining climate science and technology to tackle the climate crisis.

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Which people and role models inspired you to follow this path?

There are two women from the world of science that I find particularly inspiring.

The first is Mary Anning, a paleontologist who collected a lot of the fossils you can now see in the Natural History Museum in London. In a recent article, the Natural History Museum referred to Anning as “the unsung hero of fossil discovery.”

The second is Isabella Bird, a 19th century explorer and photographer. She was a pioneer for the empowerment of women, and the first woman to be a member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).

What did you study at university? What did you like most about this subject?

My degrees are in geography, oceanography and Earth Sciences, which all relate to different aspects of climate science.

What I like most about climate science is how it treats scale and complexity. Essentially, it’s the study of lots of different interconnecting systems on scales that range from the behavior of microscopic sea creatures to the gravitational interactions between planets.

Being an Earth Scientist gives you a way of thinking about complexity and time that I carry over to many other aspects of my life. We often work and measure success on a quarterly or annual basis. But focusing on short-term targets and success metrics can create and compound problems further down the line. Being a geologist requires you to hold multiple time frames in mind simultaneously, and to think about the impact five or ten years in the future, as well as your objectives for now.

What do you think are some of the challenges women face working in climate science? How have you overcome these obstacles in your own career?

I think society’s idea of what leadership looks like, and what a scientist looks like, is too narrow. This not only creates barriers to entry, but barriers to progression. There is what is called the “leaky pipeline”, where at every stage of career development, science loses more and more women.

Ultimately, this lack of different perspectives impacts on the quality of scientific research. Caroline Criado Perez gives some great examples of this in her book, Invisible women. One that stuck with me was that women are more likely to be injured or killed in car crashes, because cars are designed with “reference man” in mind and studies looking at car crash impacts and seatbelts use crash-test dummies based on the average male. Diversity of perspective and experience makes for better, more complete research, which, in this case, makes for safer cars.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to women and girls thinking about going into climate science?

Climate science is a really interdisciplinary field. At Cervest, we have experts in everything from machine learning to atmospheric physics, capital markets to risk management. Real innovation happens at the boundaries where different subjects interact. There is no one ‘optimal’ pathway, so follow whichever one keeps you interested.


showing girls or women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics against a green background with symbols including equal sign, cog, cloud, graph, stars and a beaker

International Day of Women and Girls in Science: How to support women in STEM

It’s no secret that there remains a significant gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) industries.

Dr Shirley Knowles, ProgressWomen make up only 24% of those in the sector, despite progress in recent years. As Dr Shirley Knowles, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Progress points out, not only are women put off joining the sector, they “are often paid less and don’t get the same level of recognition as their male counterparts,” once in it.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science serves as a timely reminder that making STEM industries a more welcoming place for women requires significant effort from individuals  and organisations. With that in mind, we spoke to women working in science and technology to get their tips on supporting women in the sector.

From small acorns… 

Studies have shown that gender stereotyping starts young, with less girls taking STEM subjects at GCSE and A level. In order to get more women into the sector, organisations have to develop and support initiatives that will address this, and encourage more girls to consider this path.

Nicola Aitken, Ascent“Studies have shown that gender stereotyping starts as early as primary school age where books and language begin to shape how girls and boys “should” think, look, and behave,” highlights Nicola Aitken, Microsoft Business Manager at Ascent. “They pick up cues from the language they hear, the images they see and the expectations placed on them. Their family and friends, the media and familiar settings such as their playgroup will all influence how children interpret gender. This has to change.”

“A few years ago I supported a local (to me) primary school (alongside other parents) to raise funds to build a science lab, known as The Discovery Hub. As a result all children within the school – and other schools in the area – had direct and easy access to science and technology. To my mind, it all starts at the grass roots level with our children.”

Samantha Thorne, Head of People at Node4, agrees with the importance of supporting young girls, highlighting initiatives at Node4. “An ongoing shortage of tech talent in the UK makes bridging the gender skills gap an absolute priority and reaching out to girls and women about the opportunities available to them is a critical part of our talent strategy. Our engagement with local schools and colleges provides work experience and placement opportunities to GCSE and Computer Science students, recognising the role our industry has to play in keeping girls and women engaged in STEM subjects, helping them to imagine the possibilities and career paths available to them, and realise their potential.”

Aitken concludes: “The full impact of initiatives like International Day of Women and Girls in Science may take some years to be felt. But, as they say, from small acorns mighty oaks grow.”

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Challenging recruitment bias

Other than investing in the youth, one of the most important things an organisation can do to improve their gender balance is to review their recruitment process. Many organisations may be inadvertently putting women off with their recruitment processes, or find that those recruiting have hidden biases that are leading them to hire more men.

Caroline Seymour Zerto“Employers should make sure that they understand gender-balance data in their company,” Caroline Seymour VP, Product Marketing at Zerto suggests. “Create gender-neutral job descriptions, ensure women are part of the interviewing team, ensure that interview rounds include diverse candidates, conduct regular pay equity reviews to attract and retain candidates, offer mentorship and advancement programs and lastly regularly evaluate hiring and promotion processes to eliminate bias.”

Hugh Scantlebury, Aqilla_HROpening up recruitment also means broadening the scope of recruitment outside of the traditional focus on academics and CVs, adds Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO at Aqilla. “It’s not just about academic success. We also need to champion women who have a natural affinity for science-based subjects, but don’t have formal academic qualifications — and support them in their prospective careers. There’s more than one path to success in this sector, and we need to make sure that we’re open to them all.”

Developing female leaders

Investing in and supporting women once they are in the sector is just as important as getting them through the door. Thorne explains that at Node4 they “have a focus on the retention and development of women already working within our organisation, through participation in leadership programmes and ensuring our policies, benefits and culture continue to support women’s full participation in the workplace.

“Releasing that potential gives businesses a huge competitive advantage when it comes to addressing the digital skills gaps and delivering real innovation – Tech is only ever as effective as the perspectives and insights that inform its development; we are committed to doing everything we can to influence real cultural change in this area, such that girls and women don’t just take a seat at the table but are credible contributors and influencers in the creation of solutions and approaches that deliver exceptional service to our customers, and lead innovative technological advances in support of the next phase of our development.”

Getting more women into leadership roles has the added benefit of providing visible role models for younger girls – further encouraging them into STEM. Scantlebury points to the recent visibility of women like Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert who led the AstraZeneca research and development programme. “With inspiring women like Dame Sarah to look up to, we can expect – and hope – to see this skills base continue to grow in the UK from GCSE up to graduate and postgraduate level.”

Aitken adds that, “as growing numbers of women demonstrate they can be successful in science and engineering, more role models will be created, and sexist stereotypes about women’s ability and interest in this wide-ranging field will erode. I wholeheartedly look forward to that.”

“Let’s think about Rosalind Franklin or Katherine Johnson or Mae C. Jemison – look at the impact they have had on the world,” concludes Dr Knowles. “It shouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think there are even more women like them out there, ready to be acknowledged, rewarded, and invested in. That’s why this day is so important – to help us remember.”


International Day of Women and Girls in Science: Experts discuss gender diversity in the technology industry

Diverse-group-of-stylish-people-standing-together.-Society-or-population-social-diversity

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science presents an opportunity for organisations in the technology industry to reflect on their efforts to correct gender imbalances.

Fortunately, the industry does seem to be starting to move in the right direction. ONS statistics from last year reveal that the number of women working in technology has continued to increase, with 31% of UK tech jobs now held by women. While the industry is not there yet, it is starting to show signs of improvement.

With that in mind, a host of tech experts have shared their thoughts on the importance of encouraging young females to pursue STEM subjects in school, and some of the stereotypes that need to be banished in the sector:

Diverse hiring is now a necessity

Edwina Murphy, Director, Public Cloud Management, Sungard AS, believes International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity for companies to reflect on their commitment to inclusion. She said, “Companies should use International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day to consider if they are on track to meet their diversity and inclusion goals. Self-reflection is key, so companies should consult their employees on a consistent basis, asking them what they think needs to change to make the workplace more inclusive. Business leaders must also remove unconscious biases – a far-reaching societal issue that is certainly not exclusive to the tech industry. This starts with the hiring process, removing biases by ensuring that there is a diverse group of interviewers in charge of decision- making. As such, the technology industry can start to improve on its gender imbalance issues and more women will be encouraged to pursue a career in the field.”

Dr. Lucy Mackillop, Chief Medical Officer, Sensyne Health, takes a similar stance and also believes a diverse hiring process is crucial. She argues, “There is no doubt the life sciences industry is diversifying, but there is still room for improvement. At Sensyne Health, we have strong ambitions to provide more support to women in these roles, we have a huge part to play in diversifying the science and technology industry. I believe this begins with more diverse hiring, as businesses focus on employing individuals with different views and experiences to ensure their work and workplaces are as inclusive as possible. With a diverse workforce we will be able to drive innovation across all spectrums of healthcare, helping to discover treatments for illness and disease that affect a broader range of individuals, regardless of their geographies, ethnicities, gender and ages. This in turn will enable us to be part of enabling better patient care for all.”

Early education is key

EJ Cay, Vice President, UK and Ireland, Genesys, believes young girls should be encouraged to participate in STEM subjects as early as possible. “International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day is important to me as it’s a reminder that gender equality in these fields is essential for building a better future. Without more women and girls in STEM, the world will continue to be designed by and for men, while the potential of girls and women will remain untapped. As such, we need to encourage women and girls to both study these subjects and transition into the workforce. We must also create places for women that ensure their careers are not strewn with obstacles and enable them to build a work-life balance that fulfils. This will open so many doors for other women to be inspired by technology in the same way I have.”

Karen Worstell, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware, concurs, saying educational institutions must make STEM subjects accessible to everyone. She explains, “When I was determining what type of career I wanted to pursue, I was lucky to have access to educational and extracurricular resources that made it possible for me to be at the forefront of an emerging field like cybersecurity. For future generations of women in STEM to help break the glass ceiling, we need educational institutions to foster this kind of support and access to young people across all socio-economic levels regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geography. Businesses must also recognise that the pipeline of tech talent at the moment is fragile and more must be done to hire, retain and develop talent.”

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Changing the perception of technology workers

Mairead O’Connor, Exec for Cloud Engineering, AND Digital, says there is evidence of progress being made and that the perception of technology workers is slowly shifting. She says, “The tech industry is still very much misunderstood: the age-old image of the solo coder working in a basement is far from reality. The most underrepresented skills needed are teamwork, communication, creativity and pragmatic problem-solving. I’d love to see businesses understand more what they need from their tech roles, and work hard to get the right people in them. A computer science degree can be a great route into a tech career, but it’s definitely not the only route. I studied sciences at university, but some of the most insightful technologists I know have studied humanities, or learned their skills outside of university.”

Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist at the Office of the CTO, F5, agrees and puts forward that fundamentally, STEM has a brand problem. “There is a stereotype of the type of women who work in these [STEM] roles. We might think of introverts and people that wear all black and no heels, but that’s just not the case! Whatever kind of woman you are, what you wear or what personality you have, is irrelevant. There’s a role for you. And this is a message I am trying to promote amongst my peers.”

Roisin Wherry, Data & Technology Specialist, Grayce, agrees and also recognises the importance of nurturing diverse talent in the field through mentoring schemes, saying, “Being a self-taught female coder, I wholly sympathise with the ‘pale, male, and stale’ stereotype that has long impaired the tech industry.

“With this in mind, I advocate others to create space for a diverse range of people in the tech and data sector. These can either be through peer-to-peer support or helping those exploring the industry develop more confidently. In my current role, I hold regular coffee catchups, social activities, study groups, coding clubs, and chat on Slack. This creates a community of support where Analysts of all levels help each other with client interviews, technical advice, help people settle in, and even deliver technical training.”

Be brave and be heard

Caroline Grey, Chief Customer Officer, UiPath, concludes the overall sentiment by saying her message on International Women and Girls in Science Day is, “Girls, take a risk, put your hand up in class and ask your question if something is not clear and stay open to giving and receiving feedback. Later, when you grow up, apply for that job you’ve always wanted but are not sure you are good enough for. Let’s all enjoy pursuing the opportunities that open up with being women in tech. We deserve our place. The authority gap is real but the movement to closing it is picking up. Be proud of your diverse self. We need you!”


International Women & Girls in Science Day: In Conversation with Dr Greta Vega, Head of Earth Science, Cervest

Dr Greta Vega (1)

In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’ve interviewed some of Cervest’s pioneering women climate scientists about what inspires them, why they chose their specialist fields, and how they overcame any challenges they’ve faced in their careers.

Dr Greta Vega is currently working at Cervest as Head of Earth Science. For the last three years, she has been using her background in data analysis, GIS, programming and ecology to bring Science to the decision making arena with developer and designer teams. Greta’s previous experience has been as a researcher at university and volunteer for different conservation NGOs as her general interest is to help Biodiversity Conservation with GIS and statistical analysis deliver through technology. Greta carried out her PhD on forecasting the establishment of alien species in Antarctica at King Juan Carlos University (Madrid) after completing a master course in GIS taught by ESRI Spain, an Msc in Evolutionary Biology and a Bsc in Ecology. She accomplished her education in several countries: Spain, France, United Kingdom, United States, The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and Australia. This wide array of countries where she has been living and studying has helped Greta to increase her knowledge in ecology and evolution as well as undertaking some challenging field work in Antarctica, the West Indies, the Amazon and the Gabonese rainforest

In this post, we’re talking to Dr. Greta C. Vega, Head of Earth Science, about looking for discoveries in unexpected places, how the academic system privileges ‘superstars’, and why it’s important to embrace rejection.

Greta, could you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do at Cervest?

I am Greta Vega, Head of Earth Science at Cervest. I work to bring my knowledge around ecology, biodiversity, and conservation into our Climate Intelligence network.

I also work with Cervest’s other Earth scientists to build a sense of community to support each other as EarthScanTM, our flagship product, requires.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in ecology?

It wasn’t a planned decision, per se.

When I finished high/secondary school I chose to study Earth and life sciences at a French university, the Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III. The nice thing about the French system is that each semester you can choose to become more specialized. So I started my undergraduate degree studying the more general subject of Earth and life sciences. Then, in my second year, I chose to focus on ecology.

I spent the final year of my undergraduate studies as an Erasmus student at Imperial College London, where I completed a nine-month research project that introduced me to GIS and environmental variables. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems; these are tools that collate and analyze data from maps. It was during this project that I learned how global biodiversity patterns are driven by climate.

I believe constant curiosity and openness to new opportunities took me to the path of ecology.

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Which people and role models inspired you to follow this path?

I would summarize my career approach as “always looking forward to a discovery in the most unexpected place”. So the people who have inspired me haven’t necessarily belonged to ecology or climate science.

I think I have been very lucky to have the role models at home who were researchers and teachers themselves. My parents and grandparents always helped me see opportunities and pushed me to learn from unexpected situations. With their support, I was able to learn to focus and extract learnings from many situations.

When having to make choices during my career, I would dive head-first into a subject and find out if I had learned anything new or found the subject interesting. If it wasn’t interesting or I didn’t feel I was good at it, I would move on.

What did you study at university? What did you like most about this subject?

I studied ecology as an undergraduate, completing a project that heavily involved GIS. My masters was in evolutionary ecology. My PhD was on the conservation of natural resources. In my thesis, I looked at the risk of establishment of alien species in Antarctica, particularly of small animals called springtails, which are found in soil.

What I enjoyed the most was working with the data on my computer using the programming language R and geospatial processing software called ArcMap. These tools helped me create visualizations to present my results. I had horrible stage fright at the time but I managed to overcome it by relying on the visualizations. I let the graphs talk for themselves and deflected the spotlight onto them and away from me.

It wasn’t necessarily a subject from the syllabus but, through my academic education, I got to work in all continents except Asia. Working in different places and cultures gave me an invaluable insight into different ways of engaging with people and tackling problems. I believe this skill is critical to approach the complexity of climate change, which requires input from different domains (including science, technology and design).

What do you think are some of the challenges women face working in climate science? How have you overcome these obstacles in your own career?

I believe the academic system is currently rewarding ‘superstars’ of hot topic research and is leaving behind researchers that do a great job in subjects with a more localized impact. To be considered a ‘superstar’, you usually have to be agentic and individualistic. There is no room for self-doubt.

My main obstacle has been to feel comfortable selling my work and projecting myself as agentic. It’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. Instead, I have tended to work in collaboration with other researchers.

I believe I have overcome these obstacles by learning not to be scared of being told “no”. By asking questions and knowing that if someone says “no”, it’s not the end of the world. I can take my ideas to the next person.

I also believe that is how I have ended up working closely with really talented people who care and take care of their co-workers and collaborators. With them I have been able to figure out my professional purpose: to democratize scientific knowledge for use in impactful decision making.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to women and girls thinking about going into climate science?

Don’t be scared of rejection. An early “no” brings the yes closer. “When a door closes, a window opens”. Stay curious.


Dr Chloe Prodhomme (1)

International Women & Girls in Science Day: In Conversation with Dr Chloe Prodhomme, Climate Scientist, Cervest

Dr Chloe Prodhomme (1)In celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’ve interviewed some of Cervest’s pioneering women climate scientists about what inspires them, why they chose their specialist fields, and how they overcame any challenges they’ve faced in their careers.

Dr. Chloe Prodhomme PhD graduated from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris in November 2013. She completed her PhD at LOCEAN-IPSL under the supervision of Pascal Terray and Sébastien Masson, in collaboration with the University of Tokyo. Her thesis examined the controversial and complex interactions between the Indian Monsoon and tropical Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs). Through this research, Chloe’s team showed how SST errors in the Pacific were responsible for the delayed onset of the Indian Monsoon. After completing her PhD, Chloe joined the team of Professor Francisco Doblas-Reyes as a postdoctoral fellow, first at the Institut Català de Ciències del Clima (IC3) and then at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC). In 2017, Chloe received a Juan de la Cierva fellowship from the Spanish government at the University of Barcelona. In 2019, Chloe joined MeteoFrance within the PERACE EU 2020 project. Across these four positions, Chloe has worked on the sources of skill at seasonal time scales. Her research has consisted of two elements: One, investigating the mechanisms underlying predictability and model errors, through analysis of case studies, multi-model comparison and investigation of coupled processes in seasonal forecast systems. Two, understanding climate services and user engagements through analysis of seasonal forecasts for heat-wave, drought, crop yield and fishery predictions.Chloe now works as a Climate Scientist at Cervest, a company dedicated to empowering everyone to adapt with climate change and build a resilient future for our planet.

 

In this post, we’re talking to Climate Scientist Dr. Chloe Prodhomme about her fascination with the planet Venus, the difficulties balancing academia and motherhood, and her passion for mathematics.

Hi Chloe. Could you please introduce yourself and explain what you do at Cervest?

I am Chloe Prodhomme and I’m a Climate Scientist at Cervest. My job involves translating scientific data into Climate Intelligence to help organisations adapt with climate change.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in climate science?

I always wanted to be a scientist. When I was younger I wanted to become a planetologist. I was especially fascinated by Venus. Despite its hostile conditions – sulphuric acid rain, average temperatures of more than 400 degrees Celsius – Venus is very similar to earth. In fact, some people say it would be easier to terraform Venus than it would be to terraform Mars. Terraforming being the process of artificially changing a planet’s atmosphere and climate to make it more hospitable to human life.

But during an internship studying Sea Surface Salinity at the Ifremer (Brest, France), I realized that Earth was also a planet full of mystery. I became particularly interested in the ocean. We know very little about how it interacts with the atmosphere, what happens below the surface, and so on.

In my PhD, I investigated the relationship between ocean and monsoon systems. Specifically, I found that the onset of monsoons was strongly controlled by the Pacific Sea surface temperature.

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Which people and role models inspired you to follow this path?

I think that, for many women scientists, Marie Curie is our model. She was a trailblazer in the world of science, both as a woman in a male-dominated field, and in terms of her contributions to physics and chemistry. Incidentally, Marie Curie was also the name of my university.

My bachelor thesis supervisor, Dr. Sandrine Pires was also an inspiration for me. She was the first woman I met in science, working on the deeply fascinating subject of dark matter.

After that, I spent seven years collaborating with Professor Francisco Doblas-Reyes. He was a fantastic mentor. I learned so much from him. The trust he put in me, a young post doctoral student, to represent our institute in several European projects, helped me to build up my confidence and establish my international network.

What did you study at university? What did you like most about this subject?

At university I studied mathematics and then mathematics applied to physics.

Mathematics is great. I love its world of abstraction. Plus, life is so easy in the math world. Everything is either true or false. In real life, things are a lot more complex.

Also, if you have a math background, you can easily move on to many other fields. If you understand math, you understand physics, computer science, statistics, and a range of other topics. I really enjoyed that flexibility, and the option to pursue other areas of study and interest.

What do you think are some of the challenges women face working in climate science? How have you overcome these obstacles in your own career?

It’s getting harder and harder to find permanent positions in academia. You usually have to move to find a new postdoc or fellowship, which means getting yourself out there on the academic circuit. The issue is, applying to fellowships and tenure tracks, going to conferences, and working during weekends and evenings is really challenging when you have a baby. This is one of the reasons I was so happy to find my role at Cervest, and why I am so glad to see more roles opening up for scientists outside academia, especially in climate technology.

I also think it is harder for women to convince her family to follow her in another country when she is offered a position there. Additionally, applying for funding and fellowships is an important part of the work. This is very competitive and doesn’t fit with my nature. That is why I focused my academic career on collaboration, not competition – a sentiment I carry with me into my work every day.

Overall, I am very proud of my time in academia. But I am also extremely happy to be at Cervest. Working here means I can still pursue my passion for climate science and mathematics, in a very collaborative environment, while also supporting women and diversity.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to women and girls thinking about pursuing a career in climate science?

The best piece of advice I can give is to increase your statistical and programming skills. That is most of our job, afterall.

And also to do your best. Don’t give up when things get tough. Trust yourself. You can do it!


Dr Aoibheann Brady

International Women & Girls in Science Day: In Conversation with Dr Aoibheann Brady, Senior Statistical Scientist, Cervest

Dr Aoibheann BradyIn celebration of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we’ve interviewed some of Cervest’s pioneering women climate scientists about what inspires them, why they chose their specialist fields, and how they overcame any challenges they’ve faced in their careers.

Dr Aoibheann Brady has recently joined Cervest, a Climate Intelligence startup, as a Senior Statistical Scientist.

Prior to this, she was a research associate in spatial statistics for the ERC funded GlobalMass project, which aims to combine a variety of data sources to attribute observed sea level rise to its component parts. Aoibheann led the development of a Bayesian hierarchical framework, producing a spatio-temporal model to accurately estimate these changes and any associated uncertainty. She completed a PhD in the Statistical Applied Mathematics CDT in the University of Bath, with a focus on causal methods for environmental studies, and the use of Bayesian multilevel models for the detection and attribution of long-term trends in peak river flows in the UK.

Aoibheann has a keen interest in statistical modelling, economics and any area within applied mathematics (meteorology and networks in particular). She is also interested in applying statistical models to areas within environmental sciences, sports science, education and health.

Aoibheann was shortlisted for the GCHQ Award at the Tomorrow’s Mathematicians Today Conference, at which she presented research on statistics behind anti-doping methods in sports (the implementation of a Bayesian model similar to that used by the World Anti-Doping Agency). She was also shortlisted for an Undergraduate Award (the world’s only pan-discipline academic awards programme) for this research. She also carried out a research project which modelled the spread and control of malaria via a complex system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs).

Aoibheann is a founder and co-chair of the Ireland for CERN campaign, which lobbied the Irish government to provide funding for CERN membership, highlighting the lack of funding for Irish-led research in the sciences, and promoting the study of STEM subjects to secondary school students. She is also involved in campaigns to promote/support women in Mathematics and Theoretical Physic.

In this article, we’re talking to Senior Statistical Scientist Dr. Aoibheann Brady about using science to influence policy, being inspired by her mother, and the ongoing underrepresentation of women and minority groups in STEM-related subjects.

Hi Aoibheann. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do at Cervest?

My name is Aoibheann Brady, I’m a Senior statistical scientist developing models that feed the signals used in Cervest’s flagship product, EarthScanTM.

I’m particularly interested in understanding how environmental exposures vary in space and time, and how we can use our understanding of spatial proximity to inform and enhance Cervest’s modeling of climate hazard exposure risk.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in climate science?

I spent the first year of my PhD completing my Master of Research degree (MRes). This allowed me to undertake different projects and develop ideas for a PhD. During this time, I completed a project on spatio-temporal statistical modeling of air pollution. Both the application and the underpinning methodology really fascinated me, and I’ve pursued environmental statistics projects ever since.

But while I find this area really interesting, it is frustrating when your research has little impact on policy. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to be working at Cervest. I believe our approach to Climate Intelligence will be a real driver of policy change. I’m also quite fortunate to be in a role that blends my personal interests (climate change) and my work interests (statistics) so perfectly!

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Which people and role models inspired you to follow this path?

I’ve been genuinely lucky to have had excellent female role models throughout my life. My mother strongly encouraged me and my sisters to take subjects like biology and chemistry at school, as she felt like she had missed out by dropping those subjects.

The head of my department during my undergraduate degree was incredibly encouraging of young female academics and set up various initiatives to support us. My primary PhD supervisor, Dr. Ilaria Prosdocimi, has already managed to be a superstar both in academia and in industry at a young age, while also supporting those of us who hope to follow her. She also helped foster my interest and capabilities in environmental statistics. Having worked in statistical modeling for hydrology herself, she had a million different research ideas for the area!

I’m incredibly grateful to them and the amazing female researchers I’ve had the chance to know and collaborate with.

What did you study at university? What did you like most about this subject?

I completed an undergraduate degree in mathematics, then an MRes in statistical applied mathematics. I obtained a PhD in statistics, where I examined statistical attribution of long-term drivers of climate change, with a particular focus on river flows.

I love the variety and scope of challenges in environmental statistics, and in particular how to represent a physical environmental process accurately through statistical modeling.

What do you think are some of the challenges women face working in climate science? How have you overcome these obstacles in your own career?

One of the biggest challenges is feeling like you don’t see yourself, or someone else like you, in your research area. Underrepresentation of women and many minority groups in STEM fields is incredibly frustrating, and the progress over time often feels like it’s happening at a glacial pace.

I’m not sure we’ll fully overcome these obstacles in my lifetime, but by actively participating in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and recruitment I’m hoping to serve as a role model and encourage more young women to join Cervest and the climate science field as a whole.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to women and girls thinking about going into climate science?

We’re not the only ones suffering from imposter syndrome. We’re just far more likely to admit it. My Confidence Matters has found that 75% of people regularly experience imposter syndrome in their career, and this occurs regardless of gender. Yet, it seems that while women are more willing to discuss this feeling openly, there may be more of a cultural pressure on men to not admit it.

It may be hard to convince yourself that you’re amazing, but if you can convince yourself that we’re all struggling to convince ourselves too, you feel much less alone in it!


Carol Browner

International Women & Girls in Science Day: In Conversation with Carol Browner, Member of the Cervest Climate Intelligence Council

Carol Browner

Carol M. Browner is the former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.

A leading voice on environmental and sustainability issues, Browner has nearly four decades of experience in public policy, regulatory, environmental impact issues, corporate sustainability, and clean energy and ESG initiatives. As Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, she helped oversee the coordination of environmental, energy and climate initiatives across the government, including new automobile fuel efficiency standards and the most stringent air pollution standards in U.S. history.

To mark International Women and Girls in Science Day, we spoke to Carol about what she’s working on right now, her advice for making it in science and why she joined the Cervest Climate Intelligence Council.

Can you share with us what you are working on in the climate space right now?

Currently, I am very focused on sustainable carbon / GHG reductions. This needs to be tackled at all levels, from national to subnational, government to industry. We need everyone on the playing field to achieve this. I am working with a number of companies on developing strategies to lower their carbon impacts and finding sustainable ways to expand their businesses that improve environmental stewardship. And, I am the board chair for the League of Conservation Voters, an organization that has prioritized federal and local action on climate change and identifying and supporting leaders that make climate change a policy priority.

Why do you believe that Climate Intelligence is so critical to the climate risk debate?

Climate Intelligence is essential to the climate risk debate. We have to understand and have the science and the knowledge to make informed decisions. When dealing with a problem of the magnitude of climate change, you must build public confidence in the decisions that you make and want to make.

Last year saw more extreme weather events than ever before, how do you see organisations and policy makers adapting to this growing risk?

Extreme weather events are also an opportunity to help educate the public on climate risk. The more you can educate members of the public by calling on their personal experience, the stronger the support we can build for policy decisions. People need access to information that is relatable, that has context in their own lives.

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You’re one of the first members of the Cervest Climate Intelligence Council – what led you to join the initiative?

Science is at the heart of Cervest’s platform, which is very important to me. There is transparency in what they are doing, providing access to information needed to allow everyone to make their own decisions. It honors the public’s right to know. And the information is innovative and adds important facts to the discussion that must be considered.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in (environmental) policy? 

On one level, it found me. Growing up in Miami, in the everglades, I was surrounded by the natural environment, and it felt like an automatic fit. The idea that I could be part of protecting these beautiful places has really become a lifelong commitment. Beginning with water protection in Florida, I’ve worked all the way through to air pollution challenges on a national level at the Environmental Protection Agency and now once again by confronting the reality of climate change, resiliency, and adaptation and its intrinsic connection to clean water, I’ve come full circle to where I started. I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders who understand how important it is to our economy and our future to protect our health and environment and with really smart people along the way who know how to make it happen.

If you could give one piece of advice to girls looking to make a career in science, what would it be?

Do that which you are passionate about; it will make you get up every day and want to go to work. I’ve been incredibly lucky in loving what I do. In fact, I love it so much that I can’t stop!

Sometimes it seems that young people want a career path that is already plotted out, but opportunities present themselves without warning. My advice is to seize the moment. I took advantage of opportunities I was passionate about, driven by doing what I care about. If you care about what you do, you will both excel and do a better job.

As women, we have a different voice. Don’t be afraid to bring that voice to the conversation, even if you’re the only woman in the room. It’s an important part of being a woman. Our voices are different, and we should raise them.