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Women in science: The art of breeding threatened birds

8 March 2019

We’re very lucky to be surrounded by some very talented and dedicated scientists at Zoos Victoria and in honour of International Women's Day we are celebrating some incredible talents, who we work with as part of our threatened species programs.

When it comes to saving a species sometimes you have to go above and beyond. Although the team at Healesville Sanctuary have well and truly cracked the code to breeding critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeaters in captivity, they know there is more they could be doing to give these little fighters the best chance at survival.

Meet Dr Liz Dobson, she’s a Veterinary Pathologist, starting off her career as a Vet 19 years ago, she has worked within the field of pathology for 11 years.

Dr Dobson has contracted her services to Zoos Victoria for a number of years looking at necropsy tissues and determining cause of death in zoo animals to mitigate effects of disease and other ailments. She is currently assisting with a critical project to optimise captive breeding of Orange-bellied Parrots and Helmeted Honeyeaters.

She does this through egg necropsy, trying to understand why the team are getting a high rate of hatching failure. “If we can reduce the failure hatchling failure, we can produce more Helmeted Honeyeaters which ultimately will be released to help boost the wild population.”

Dr Dobson is used to working behind the sciences and admits the pathology field is not an area that is regularly highlighted, however she does understand the importance of talking publicly about her work for the benefit of those budding scientists in our community and encouraging more women into this field, "Hopefully young women see that this is a really interesting field to work in and it’s a role where you can definitely make a difference," she says.

And her advice to young women and young wannabe scientists? “Find an area you’re interested in and stay engaged in that chosen field. You will continue to find areas that fascinate and sometimes surprise you as you mature throughout your career. There are always new learning experiences and opportunities to be had.”

Science is golden

Not only do we work with a range of scientists within Australia and around the world but we are very lucky to have a range of diverse scientists on staff at Zoos Victoria. Our team of scientists range in speciality from animal welfare science, veterinary science, biological science and social science to name a few. As a science based organisation, we feel very lucky to have access to amazing experts on a daily basis.