Profile: Dr Jodie Fisher (Earth Science Technician, Plymouth University)

Jodie CropName: Dr Jodie Fisher

Job Role: Earth Science Technician

Organisation: Plymouth University

Education Background: 

  • BSc Geology at Leicester University
  • Masters of Research at UCL in Environmental Sciences
  •  PhD at Plymouth University looking at the environmental impact of climate change much further back in the geological record. Studying the mid-Cretaceous I used isotopes, geochemistry and micropalaeontology to determine the cause and effect of elevated carbon dioxide levels, increased sea levels and a much warmer climate on life in the global oceans.

1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?

I always loved science and was initially attracted by archaeology, the study of past lives and the excitement of discovering new things and uncovering mysteries using science. I quickly realised it was much further back in time that interested me the most when I started my geology degree at Leicester. I had never done geology before but found it incorporated all the biology, chemistry, physics and maths I had loved at school and applied them in a much more exciting way!

2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?

Following my PhD I was funded by Leverhulme as post-doctoral research fellow. Applying the skills I had developed during my PhD, this time I was working as a pseudo-volcanologist: helping a volcanology team date volcanic events in the marine record. Instead of using foraminifera to date and assess climate change in the Cretaceous I instead used the same techniques to date marine cores, correlate them and in doing so tie down the volcanic events that punctuate the normal marine sedimentation. Using changes in the species of microfossils that we see in the cores, and geochemisty of these fossils, we were able to date the volcanic activity on Montserrat back over 150,000 years. Following my Post Doc I had a career break to start a family, I took an outreach role organising, leading and running events for the Faculty of Science and gained a fantastic amount of experience in outreach and science communication. Something I use on a daily basis today. I took the opportunity to move back into a more geological role when an Earth Science Technician post became available. I was able to do this part time as 1 child became 3 and this is where I find myself today.

 3. What does your current job role involve?

A little bit of everything! From setting up practical’s for the undergraduates, to supporting and supervising research project students. I get to run a lab, get out in the field and work with a fantastic team. Primarily supporting teaching, I spend a lot of time with students who are learning research techniques in our palaeo labs. From processing sediments, to analysis, and imaging rocks and fossils, I train them in these techniques and am always on hand to help with any problems and of course check the health and safety forms have been filled in! I also take an active role in the Earth Science outreach programme. Always looking for an excuse to talk about anything geological I run workshops for school students on everything from lava flow modelling, to microfossils and even forensic geology! I also get the students involved too and with British Science Week, Lyme Regis Fossil Festival and of course our Girls into Geoscience event, its great to see our students getting some experience in science communication too. And that’s not all! Curating new material for our teaching collections, maintaining teaching and  research equipment, and a bit of time to keep my hand in with the microfossils, this really is a varied and interesting role.

 4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

Definitely the variety. I love hands on science and this is what I get to do every day. Spending time with staff, students and school children, I hope that I have inspired, even just a little bit, someone to consider a career in science, or even geoscience. I miss the research and fieldwork that dominated much of my early career (who wouldn’t want to study volcanoes in the Caribbean), but I hope that as the children get older I will get the opportunity to get more involved in teaching and research again.

5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?

Like anything balance is good and geosciences, like many science degrees, offers a huge amount of career opportunities for both men and women. I do a lot of outreach and it is amazing how early on girls and boys form ideas on what jobs are for the boys and which are for the girls and we need to break down these gender barriers. For me, if someone told me something wasn’t for me, I would strive to prove them wrong, but this often isn’t the case. There is no reason why more women shouldn’t get involved in the exciting career opportunities that exist in the Earth Sciences, and that’s where we come in!

6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?

Go for it! If you have a passion for a subject or field of study don’t let anyone put you off. Where there is passion there is achievement, and through that of course anything is possible. Ha ha, now I sound like a life coach! But seriously, I am a great believer in doing things you enjoy, and if you can stop to big up your fellow woman along the way, even better.


Jodie will be running a workshop on ‘Microfossils and climate’ with Deborah Wall-Palmer at our Girls into Geoscience event on July 4th. Book your place today: girlsintogeoscience@plymouth.ac.uk  or Tel (01752) 585975.

You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci

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Profile: Dr Michelle Harris, (Lecturer, Plymouth University)

Michelle_layered gabbros
Michelle sitting on crystallised magma chambers from the ocean crust in Oman

Name: Dr Michelle Harris

Job Role: Lecturer

Organisation: Plymouth University

Education Background: Masters Geological Sciences (International) University of Leeds & University California Santa Barbara, PhD University of Southampton


1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?

I came into geosciences because it involved combining aspects of my favourite subjects. I always loved sciences and learning about how the Earth worked, so when it came to choosing a degree to study at university, geosciences seemed the perfect choice.

2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?

After becoming fascinated by the seafloor during my undergraduate degree I chose to complete a PhD where I spent 4 years researching my favourite topic. After this I was still motivated to study the seafloor and decided to pursue an academic career where I could continue my research.

 3. What does your current job role involve?

As lecturer I am involved with undergraduate teaching in Earth Sciences and research. My research interest centres on understanding hydrothermal circulation (when seawater percolates down into the seafloor) and the role that it plays in the formation of the volcanic rocks that make up the seafloor.

 4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

On a day-to-day basis I love the variety of my job, on any day I could be doing a wide variety of different things (teaching, designing new lecture materials, looking at rocks under the microscope, crushing and dissolving rocks for chemical analysis, looking at data on my computer or even out in the field looking at rocks).  It keeps my job exciting and keeps me on my toes!

Overall the aspect I enjoy most about my job is going out to sea on research trips. For me there is nothing better than being out at sea for weeks at a time and recovering new samples from the seafloor. It is amazing to see first-hand what we can achieve from an engineering perspective (watching a drill pipe 3 km long suspended from a ship re-enter a drill hole a few centimetres wide will always amaze me!) but also to be at forefront of human exploration, the seafloor is our most abundant landscape on Earth yet it is barely explored. Each time I go out to sea I am seeing a part of the Earth that very few people will ever see and the first person to hold that rock from the seafloor. I feel very privileged and excited every time I am at sea.

5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?

I knew very little about the Geosciences and the possible career options when I was at school, and I think that needs to change as there are so many different ways that you can be involved in Geosciences.

6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?

Don’t be put off if you haven’t had a lifelong passion for fossils or volcanoes, or know what you want to do at 17 years old – I certainly didn’t! It wasn’t until the third year of my degree that I came across the topic that would captivate me and inspire me to continue onto a PhD. Geoscience is a very varied subject and goes so much further than volcanoes and fossils, it is an applied science that is highly relevant to society. It offers many possibilities and opportunities and it is an excellent way to expose yourself to new challenges.

7. Highlight of my career so far:

I have 2 highlights. Number 1 was the first time I saw pillow lavas on the seafloor in real time from cameras on the ROV on my first ever research cruise. I remember being so excited to finally see for myself the seafloor, it still amazes me everytime. The second was slightly more professional and that was being selected to lead the core description team on an IODP drilling expedition. Only 24 scientists are selected for each IODP Expedition from scientists all around the world and I was still a PhD student at the time, I was immensely proud to be selected and recognised by my peers.


Michelle will be giving a talk on ‘Hydrothermal circulation and ocean drilling’ at our Girls into Geosciences event on 4th July. Book your place today: girlsintogeoscience@plymouth.ac.uk  or Tel (01752) 585975.

You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci

Profile: Dr Sarah Boulton (Lecturer, Plymouth University)

Sarah Boulton

Name: Dr Sarah Boulton

Job Role: Lecturer in Neotectonics

Organisation: Plymouth University

Education Background: MSci (Hons) Geology UCL; PhD geology Edinburgh.


1. What inspired you to take up a career in the Geosciences?

As a child I collected fossils from the gravel bedload of the river at the bottom of my garden and we went on family holidays to Scotland and elsewhere in the UK that often included dramatic rocks and a trip down mine or two – all these experiences really got me interested in the natural world and geology in particular.  But I also was also interested other aspects of natural science as well as archaeology.  The deciding factors were an excellent geology lecture I attended at the University of Birmingham Open day and the thought that I probably was more likely to get a job as a geologist than an archaeologist!

2. Can you give more detail about your path to your current job role?

After doing science A-levels I went to University College London to do an MSci in Geology.  That is a 4 year undergraduate master’s course.  After that I secured a PhD research position at Edinburgh University where I worked on the tectonic and sedimentary evolution of the Hatay Graben in Southern Turkey from the Eocene to present day.  This involved a fair amount of time out in Turkey, which was very hard work but was also amazing. When I finished my PhD I was very lucky to be employed at Plymouth on a temporary lecture contract, which was made permanent after three years.

 3. What does your current job role involve?

As a lecturer I do lots of different things and no day is ever the same!  Primarily my time is split between teaching (preparing and giving lectures, tutorials and practicals, marking work, and course administration) and research (applying for funding, undertaking research (in the field, lab or in front of a computer), writing articles for publication, going to conferences). I supervise masters and doctoral students, which falls somewhere between the two, and I am the second year tutor so I look after the pastoral care of those students. I also coordinate open and applicant days and sit on a number of school committees.

 4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

That is a difficult question – but I guess it comes down to making a difference, whether that is to someone’s future through teaching or through finding out something new through research.

5. Why do you think it’s important to encourage more girls into the Geosciences?

All work places benefit from diversity, as this brings different ideas and perspectives to problem solving and team work.  Restricting the participation of any group will only create narrow thinking and a tendency to follow the status quo.  The Geosciences embrace a range of exciting and rewarding careers and women should make up more of the workforce than at present because this field contains exciting and rewarding careers that would benefit from greater gender equality.

6. If you could give a piece of advice to girls currently thinking about a career in the Geosciences, what would it be?

Be yourself and never give up!  Also it’s worth spending money on good field clothes because it’s really easy to get cold doing UK field trips!


Sarah will be running a workshop on ‘Faults in Google Earth (GIS)’ at out Girls into Geoscience event on 4th July. Book your place today: girlsintogeoscience@plymouth.ac.uk  or Tel (01752) 585975.

You can also follow our event on twitter @girlsingeosci