To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we caught up with Clare who is Head of the Geoscience Regulation Office (GSRO) with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC). Established in 2021, the Geoscience Regulation Office is responsible for licensing, monitoring and compliance assurance for the petroleum, minerals, mines and geothermal sectors, both on and offshore Ireland. Clare gives an insight into the work of the Geoscience Regulation Office, noting that 50% of the scientific team are female. She also details her career journey and what initially sparked her interest in a career in science.
Tell us a little about your current role?
I currently manage and lead the Geoscience Regulation team. The reputation of the GSRO is aligned with the current DECC Statement of Strategy under Strategic goal 05: Ensure best in class governance and regulation – Ireland will have robust, transparent and effective regulatory frameworks in place to support a sustainable society and economy and a well-protected environment. The GSRO comprises a focussed well experienced team and includes a team of scientific specialists (geophysicists, geologists, database experts) and we have regular engagement with consultant engineers and environmental experts. It may be of interest to note that 50% of our current GSRO scientific team are female.
What sparked your interest in a career in science?
Curiosity from an early age. I always liked the logic of science. A career in a scientific field was appealing even as a teenager because of the variety it offered and the prospect of spending my workday on interesting challenging projects that included problem solving and provided impact. I also liked the fact that I didn’t need to choose my speciality until well into my college years.
What was your career journey to your current role?
I studied Science in University College Galway that included Geology and Maths and did an MSc in Applied Geophysics at the same college, graduating in 1983. When I garduated, I was hired as an Exploration Geophysicist by a major American oil company called Conoco and was based in their London office. After 5 years I was transferred to the Advance Exploration Office in Houston, Texas and worked global new ventures. I was reassigned to the London office in 1992 and was involved in field production as well as exploration, specialising in seismic surveying and mapping. I decided to take a career break from the sector for a few years while I had 3 children and returned to live in Ireland. When I returned to the work environment, I set up my own consultancy and worked for a few companies in a consultancy capacity. I consulted in a scientific role for the Department of Natural Resources in 1997 and formally joined the Civil Service 6 years ago through TLAC as Head of Technical Section (now the Geoscience Regulation Office).
What opportunities has the role provided you with?
My career has been varied and has involved working on, apart from Ireland, many international basins, onshore and offshore. My role as a scientist provided me with the opportunity to travel extensively often to remote places and to meet and engage with global specialists. My career also provided the scope to work on interesting projects with real impact. For many years I worked as a scientist on Promotion and Outreach and I enjoyed that knowledge exchange. My job has also provided the opportunity to liaise directly with researchers and the academic community.
Can you tell us about a highlight from your career?
I was involved in the design, acquisition, processing and interpretation of the largest 2D seismic survey ever acquired offshore Ireland (18,000km). The scope and scale of the survey was substantial covering all our Atlantic Margin basins. The data has been valuable in underpinning our knowledge of the geology of Ireland’s offshore basins in terms of their formation, structure and stratigraphy. The project won a National Maritime Award in 2015 and the data is still being used by national and international researchers.
Why did you choose a career in the Public Sector?
Working as a scientist in the public sector provides a variety of interesting work, engagement with a wide range of stakeholders and gives an insight into government workings, regulation, policy formation and the decision making process. Our Department is also an advocate for blended working and work/life balance.
What advice would you give someone thinking of a career in science?
Based on my experience I would strongly encourage a career in science on the basis that it provides very interesting work in a variety of settings (laboratory work, fieldwork, desk work etc) with innovation encouraged and opportunity for growth and mobility. I would suggest that whatever aspect of science one elects to have a career in, hard work cannot be over-estimated and never fall shy to learn from others by asking questions or requesting training. It is important too to keep up-to-date of new developments in your discipline and don’t be afraid to specialize.