Fiona Mathews

Fiona Mathews

The intricate nature of Fiona Mathews’ research as a Mammal Biologist allows her to examine how the environment faced by both people and wildlife alike has transformed since the Industrial Revolution of 19th century Britain. In particular, her work investigates how crucial modern challenges, from urban expansion to exposure to wind turbines, light pollution, mobile telephones, and nutritional inadequacies, affect population dynamics.

Her most recent research has investigated the ecological impacts of wind energy generation on bats, and the effects of artificial lighting on biodiversity. Working closely with local conservation organizations and statutory authorities, Fiona has studied the effects of habitat fragmentation on rare species, such as greater horseshoe and grey long-eared bats.

Fiona said: “I am a practical person and want my research to make a difference. Spending an evening talking to conservation volunteers, or attending a meeting with policy-makers, reminds me of the scale of current conflicts between humans and wildlife, and inspires me to find solutions.”

Fiona is a keen advocate for making science accessible to everyone, and said that the theme of this year’s International Women’s day—Inspiring Change—reflected her own beliefs that more can still be done to encourage people of all genders, abilities and backgrounds to consider it as a career. She said: “We need to stop the drop-out of women from science: the numbers of women in post-doctoral and more senior positions is simply unacceptable in the 21st Century. I think science retains a rather adversarial culture which many women find difficult. As well as looking for changes in the attitudes of men, women need to be confident in their own achievements and be prepared to communicate about them.”

Achieving a work-life balance is something that is also important to Fiona. When outlining what brings her joy, she combines walking on the cliffs around the West Country’s famous coastline with pursuing her passion for bat research. Fiona also selected her proudest moment as one that combined academic achievement with changes to her personal life. Fiona said: “My proudest moment was being awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship, which happened when I was just about to have my first child. Having this endorsement from such a prestigious organisation, at a time when life was changing rapidly, was very important to me.”

Fiona’s passion for living each day to the maximum is also apparent in the advice she would offer to others. “Enjoy being busy: life is short.” she said.