Women in STEM: A Q&A with Kimberley Tasker – Senior Ecologist
Ada Lovelace Day – celebrated on the 12th of October - is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). It aims to increase the profile of women in STEM and, in doing so, create new role models who will encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM.
Fittingly, we’ve interviewed a few of the exceptional women at SLR to understand more about their roles, their journey, and to share some inspiration for younger generations. Today, we’re introducing Kimberley Tasker, who is a Senior Ecologist based in Ontario, Canada.
Tell me a bit about your job? What are your favourite aspects, and what is the most challenging part?
I am a Senior Ecologist in the role of Business Lead for the Ecology team in Canada.
My favourite thing about my job is connecting with colleagues across Canada to help them achieve their goals, whether they be project specific or career oriented. One of the most challenging aspect of my job is… connecting with colleagues across Canada. With Canada’s expansive geography and multiple time zones, it can be difficult to coordinate conversations.
I guess every pro has its con! When did you first become interested in Ecology?
Having grown up on a farm of over 800 acres and the opportunity to explore fields, woodlands, creeks, and ponds, it was inevitable that I was going to land in the world of ecology/biology in some capacity.
That sounds idyllic. Beyond childhood exploring, did you know much about Ecology as a kid?
As a child, my only real connection to ecology as a profession was David Suzuki (says every Canadian kid of the 80s!).
What did you study to get to your chosen career? How did it help you get to where you are today?
After an undergrad degree in Biology and Environmental Science, I worked as an Environmental Coordinator for an expansive land development project in the Rockies.
In that role, I worked with consulting Ecologists and saw first-hand that the combination of ecology, problem solving, and interacting with people was the kind of work I wanted to do.
Based on their advice, I returned to school to complete a thesis based Masters and actually got a job in the same firm shortly after graduating! I believe my undergrad and graduate studies helped hone my critical thinking skills, independent work habits and time management skills.
Now that you’re established in your profession, what do you do to maintain your skill set or continue to grow in your area?
I surround myself with talented people that motivate and inspire me. If you are doing this right, you should be at least slightly out of your comfort zone, but that is a good thing – that’s when growth occurs.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about being an Ecologist?
That ecological field-work is all about catching bugs and counting bunnies. Technology in the form of remote sensing, deep learning, artificial intelligence for image recognition, and DNA/eDNA species detection are all having a major (and fun) impact on how we conduct our field-work.
It sounds like there’s a lot going on in the Ecology space right now.
Overall, what has been your experience as a woman studying and working in STEM? Have you faced any challenges?
My experience as a woman studying and working in STEM has been good.
The majority of my undergrad and graduate cohorts were all women and I have never felt that my gender has played a factor with regards to work opportunities or promotions.
As a woman, my greatest challenge at work has been deciding when is an appropriate time in your career to go on maternity leave.
What advice would you give to girls interested in a career in STEM?
My advice to girls thinking about a STEM career path is:
- seek out inspiring mentors: in person or in the media (check out Physics Girl or Mark Rober, my daughter loves them)
- ignore old clichés: yes, girls can do math!
- ask questions: put your hand up in class, reach out to experts for help or advice
We'll be sharing a new interview each day this week, so keep an eye out for the next in our 'Women in STEM' series! Read the other interviews here:
And to learn more about Ada Lovelace Day, visit findingada.com