'Follow what you love': Dr Fiona Kelly, Senior Research Officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland
A top scientist and Kilkenny native had some useful advice for young girls and women as the UN marked International Day of Women and Girls in Science earlier this month.
Dr Fiona Kelly is a Senior Research Officer at Inland Fisheries Ireland. She heads up a large team specialising in research on various freshwater fish species and has been interested in science since she was a child
“As a career, science is extremely interesting and rewarding. The work we do in Inland Fisheries Ireland has great variety and diversity,” she says.
“It’s not just a desk job, you get to work outdoors on rivers, lakes and estuaries on a regular basis. Follow what you love.”
Growing up beside the River Barrow in Graignamanagh, her father nurtured her interest in nature while she also had an influential biology teacher in school. This, in turn, led to her being an exhibitor at the annual Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin’s RDS, before she went on to earn a BSc (honours) in Zoology and PhD, in freshwater ecology, in UCD. It was through her PhD work that she came into contact with the fisheries State agency.
“It might seem a strange or unusual career to some people, I suppose,” she laughs, “but I sometimes try to explain it as being like a marine biologist, except it’s freshwater and I specialise in fish! But I love it for its diversity. I am not desk-bound, and I get out to the rivers and lakes from time to time, working on a range of research projects and checking the status of our fish stocks, so it’s never dull. We have amazing natural resources here in Ireland with our lakes and rivers, and we need to protect and conserve them.”
Dr Kelly says Irish female scientists in the environmental and fisheries sector are well regarded.
“As an island nation, we have a different perspective, so we have much to offer,” she says.
“For instance, I’m on the EIFAAC Technical and Scientific Committee, a sub-committee working under the aegis of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Irish scientists, male and female, are regular speakers at international conferences. It’s a varied and exciting career. I would encourage any girls and women who are interested in science to pursue it as a career.”
Her words of advice to young girls and women for International Day of Women and Girls in Science are clear:
“I followed my passion. I love the area I got involved in. I’d say: follow your areas of interest and, you know, it’s much easier to study if you love the subject.”