#WomenInScience – Dr Eileen Tisdall

Woman outdoors with hills and mountains in the background

Job title

Lecturer in Environmental Geography

What course/subject did you study?

My first degree is in Geology, I have a MSc in Environmental Sciences and my PhD is in Holocene climate change.

Briefly describe what you do and your areas of interest in your particular field?

I use evidence that is thousands of years old to interpret what the environment was like in the past. This evidence can be from plants and animals but can be from the physical processes that have shaped landscapes over time. I am interested in working out what the environment was like in the past because I want to know how people behaved as their environment and landscapes changed.  This could help us work out what we can do as our climate changes.

What got you interested in science/STEM?

I was interested in landscapes and why places looked the way that they did, but it was conversations with my mum (she was a geography teacher) that really got me interested in science. Each time we went on holiday we would have long conversations about the places we visited. I realised that you had to interpret at all the different parts of the landscape the geology, the physical geography, the plants and then people and I thought that was amazing.

In your opinion, what makes a scientist?

Someone who knows that to work across the disciplines is hard, it takes you out of your own discipline which can be unnerving, but the outcomes are absolutely worth it.

What makes you get up in the morning?

At the moment its two small black cats!  I enjoy my subject area both teaching and research and more often than not I am curious and want to know more.

What excites you about your field/work?

I think there is nothing to beat being outside, walking across landscapes and taking the time to think through why they look the way that they do. Really wondering why.  It is even better if you are part of team and you can all stand there have a great discussion with lots of arm waving!

What is the coolest thing about your work/research?

Most of my research is based around archaeology.  This means I am often working on site with archaeologists and there are times when I am there when they find something incredible and that is so exciting.

If you could have dinner with 3 scientists (living or dead) who would you invite?

Alexander von Humbolt, Margaret Guido (Peggy Piggott) and Mary Anning.

What one future invention would you like to see become a reality?

A time machine, but I might have to be prepared to find out that I got some things wrong!

In your opinion, what’s the most exciting problem in science/STEM currently facing humanity?

We need to reconnect ourselves to the natural world, stop seeing ourselves as separate.  Making this shift will enable us to find much better solutions to issues of climate change, sustainability and biodiversity loss, as they are our problems.

If you didn’t pursue a career in science, what other line of work do you think you would have went into?

I have always wanted to be a gardener, a proper gardener in a big garden you know with a cut flower garden, a walled garden, an arboretum, the lot.  To have all that knowledge and experience would be amazing and I would be outside everyday.

Can you tell us a science joke?

I could tell you a joke about a mountain but you would never get over it.

What words of advice do you have for young people thinking of a career in STEM?

Be ready to make mistakes, learn from them and don’t be nervous to make mistakes they are very much part of the science process.

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