Issue 6
Tuesday, 06 August 2019
Charles Darwin University
Researcher Amy Kirke’s work has been recognised by the L'Oréal Mentoring program to support women in STEMM
Researcher Amy Kirke’s work has been recognised by the L'Oréal Mentoring program to support women in STEMM

Shark study leads to STEMM recognition

Researcher Amy Kirke’s work to better understand sharks in the waters of the Top End has seen her gain entry to a program to support women in science.

Amy was one of five female researchers selected to take part in the L'Oréal Mentoring program to support their futures as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) researchers.

Amy is working with NT Fisheries on a biological and ecological study of sharks that is giving resource managers a better understanding of the various shark species.  

“I’m looking at the Whitecheek Shark, Milk Shark and the Hardnose Shark, all of which are commercially fished. I’m collecting important data on factors such as their reproductivity, numbers and locations,” Amy said. 

“One of the aspects I’m looking at is how many stocks we have of these species. Are they essentially one large stock or are there geographically discrete stocks of these species?

“I’m employing some innovative techniques to help answer this, including vertebral chemistry analysis which measures chemical components that are directly indicative of the environment the shark was in. This can help identify if the stocks are interconnected.

“This interconnectivity is an important consideration from a fisheries management perspective. If the stocks are largely separate, and confined to a particular geographic area, then that might lead to a different management regime than if the population was more mingled,” she said.

Amy did her marine biology undergraduate and honours in Perth and decided to pursue a career in research.

“My interest in sharks grew slowly. I used to be really scared of them, but I did some tropical camps as part of my studies and seeing them in their natural environment I ended up finding them amazing.

“CDU had a project for me and I’m happily now in Darwin doing my PhD, working with Fisheries and industry and I really like being able to see the practical application of my science for resource management purposes.

“You want your science to be contributing something to the greater good,” Amy said.

Under the L'Oréal program, Amy will be mentored by L'Oréal-UNESCO Women In Science Fellows who have established themselves as exceptional researchers.

“I get access to an experienced researcher who I can go to for advice in dealing with my PhD and get strategies for writing grant applications, presenting in research and helping me build my network as a woman in science, who are still vastly under represented,” Amy said.