"Until I got to university, I didn’t know what area of science I wanted to specialise in, I just knew that I loved science," explains Nerilie Abram. "Earth science was my extra subject - but I quickly found out that it was exactly what I wanted to do. Discovering how the earth works is fascinating!"
Nerilie continued with Earth science right through to PhD level, and is now a QEII Fellow at the Research School of Earth Sciences at ANU.
"There is a lot of physics, chemistry and even biology in Earth sciences, and you also have to do statistics and computer work. It really brings everything together. Plus you get to work outdoors and go to amazing places!" One of the amazing places Nerilie has travelled with Earth sciences is to Antarctica to study the Earth's climate.
"After I finished my PhD, I got a position with the British Antarctic Survey. I moved to Cambridge in the UK and ended up working there for seven years as an ice core scientist. I’d always wanted to get to Antarctica. I did work experience at CSIRO in year ten and learnt a lot about Antarctica. I thought 'wow, I would love to go there'. To actually get a job where I got to go there and work – that's pretty remarkable!"
Nerilie spent two months living on a remote part of the icy continent with six other scientists. The team drilled a 363 metre long ice core, which they had to transport back to Britain for analysis to piece together a picture of what the Antarctic climate was like in the past.
"We were just in tents - for two months! When we got back to base a warm shower was just luxury."
Recently, Nerilie has swapped her snow gear for SCUBA gear.
"Now, I am looking at what the climate in the tropics was like in the past and how it is changing now. I want to see what impact that has on Australian rainfall, to make rainfall extremes a bit more predictable. I really like being able to see the real life importance of the science that I am doing. I'm developing palaeoclimate records from coral and cave deposits that I collect in Indonesia. The corals involve diving and working around the coast, and to get the cave samples we go deep into caves that very few people have ever been in before."
"You go to some very remote and amazing places working in Earth sciences. Sometimes I sit back and think 'wow! Look at where I am!' It is just amazing!"