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Fiona Carswell – Chief Scientist

Fiona Carswell

Fiona Carswell

I’m currently the Acting CEO at Manaaki Whenua. This involves knowing an awful lot about all sorts of different aspects of the organisation – not just the science.

Normally I am the Chief Scientist. In our organisation this means the person that all of the science staff report to. Mostly I work on helping science teams to recruit amazing people and supporting them through their careers in environmental research.

What did you study at university?

I studied Botany and Cellular & Molecular Biology. My PhD was Plant Ecophysiology.

What was it that led you into this field?

I originally studied carbon dioxide uptake by trees. I was a biologist and figured that carbon in trees was pretty important as a potential mitigation for climate change. Once I got the chance to do research in the Brazilian Amazon I was really hooked!

Who inspires you?

Our scientists really inspire me! They are so passionate about their research – they usually know an awful lot about their subject. They can tell a very good story about what they are working on and they are really resilient in the face of setbacks.

What excites and keeps you inspired about and in the research you do?

Nowadays I’m really interested in how our research can have an impact on the big issues for our partners. Our partners might be iwi, local Government, central Government or landowners/managers. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a piece of research solve a headache for somebody!

What would be the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

Like most researchers, getting started is one of the hardest things – it’s tough to find funding for research projects and a permanent job. You also have to stay strong in the face of getting papers rejected and funding applications rejected – both of these are normal experiences so sharing them with other researchers and trying again is all you can do!

What would you like it said about you at your retirement function?

That I was a great team player and that people in the organisation felt valued by me in their work.