Women in research who are changing the world – Part 1

Whether it’s marine science, environmental contaminants, regenerative agriculture, food security, stroke rehabilitation or social dynamics, Southern Cross University researchers are tackling the questions that matter, and coming up with solutions. In this series, we look at just a few of many women researchers who are pushing the boundaries in their respective fields.

Part 1 takes a closer look at award-winning trauma researcher Dr Kathomi Gatwiri and passionate marine scientist and lecturer Dr Anna Scott.

Dr Kathomi Gatwiri

Dr Kathomi Gatwiri is an award-winning researcher, lecturer and activist. She is a regular guest on ABC radio discussing issues affecting Africans in Australia. Her book, African Womanhood and Incontinent Bodies, explores the issue of women living with vaginal fistulas in Kenya, the country where she was born. She campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation, early marriages and other forms of gendered violence that can give rise to conditions such as fistulas. Kathomi is also the founder of Counting Dead Women – Kenya, an initiative that aims to record every woman’s murder reported in the Kenyan media.

Kathomi enrolled in university when she was just 17 and at 27, she was one of the youngest Kenyan women to ever be awarded a PhD.

“For my PhD research I wanted to understand how prolonged childbirth trauma that leads to obstetric fistulas impacts women’s lives. A fistula often leaves women with a body that is uncontrollably incontinent so I was interested in seeing how women showed agency, how they coped and how they interpreted what had happened to their bodies. My dream is that women in Kenya – and everywhere – can give birth safely and receive treatment for conditions like fistulas without humiliation, fear or shame,” she says.

“My work now has shifted into other trauma aspects, primarily focusing on two areas. First, how complex trauma affects the development and life trajectory of children and young people in out of home care and secondly, how racialised trauma impacts how Africans navigate their lives in Australia.

“As a trauma researcher, it is very important to have very strong boundaries to ensure that the distressing nature of this work doesn’t seep into your personal life. But I am very lucky to have some fantastic colleagues here at Southern Cross and across Australia who have been very intellectually generous and supportive of my work,” she says.

Dr Anna Scott

Dr Anna Scott is happiest when she’s either in the ocean or studying things that live in it. This passionate marine scientist and lecturer at Southern Cross has been researching sea anemones – that form an iconic symbiotic relationship with anemonefishes – for more than a decade.

Her research has provided the first scientific description of the sexual reproductive biology of host sea anemones, and she is using this information to develop methods for captive-breeding. This is particularly important given that these anemones are highly prized in the marine aquarium trade and collected from reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, these anemones bleach just like corals do, so Anna has also been documenting how these animals respond to our changing climate by determining bleaching thresholds, and how protective mechanisms are used to counteract stress and changes in their distribution and abundance in the field.

President of the Australian Coral Society, the world’s oldest society dedicated to the study and conservation of coral reefs, Anna divides her time between the reefs of the world and the unique environment of the Solitary Islands Marine Park near the University’s National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, where the world’s highest published density of anemonefish and sea anemones is located.

Read Part 2 here. To investigate study or research options at Southern Cross University, visit scu.edu.au.

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