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STEM award for hydrogeologist Rhona


By Gordon Calder


A YOUNG Caithness woman who works as a hydrogeologist in the mining industry in Australia has won an award for encouraging schoolchildren to get involved in science.

Rhona Cartwright, who was born in Wick and grew up in Calder, Halkirk, received the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) Young Professional Award in recognition of her work promoting the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

She says she is "really pleased" to have received such an honour.

Rhona (26) speaks to pupils about her job and what it involves but tries to do so in a way that makes sense to the youngsters and is interesting for them.

Hydrogeology is the area of geology which deals with the distribution and movement of groundwater in the soil and rocks of the Earth's crust.

"I showcase the exciting activities I get up to in my job, like visiting mine sites and overseeing drilling and going to exotic places," she said.

Rhona Cartwright received the International Association of Hydrogeologists Young Professional Award in recognition of her work promoting STEM subjects.
Rhona Cartwright received the International Association of Hydrogeologists Young Professional Award in recognition of her work promoting STEM subjects.

"I brought in rock chips from a field programme I had been a part of which showed the change in geology and where the water-bearing rocks started. The presentation aimed to give future generations the knowledge and motivation to take a positive attitude about hydrogeology and the sustainable and environmentally responsible management of groundwater resources.

"The promotion of STEM subjects to such a young audience is also great advocacy, not only for the science of hydrogeology but for scientific career options for young women and men alike."

I showcase the exciting activities I get up to in my job.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Rhona's mother, Kathryn, said they were all delighted she had won the award. "We are very proud of her. Working with young children is an ongoing thing for her," she said.

Before moving to Australia nearly two years ago, Rhona was a swimming coach and a ski instructor and is passionate about youngsters taking an interest in science subjects.

She went to Thurso High School and spent a gap year in Australia before going to Aberdeen University to do a BSc degree in petroleum geology. She then went to Strathclyde University and studied for a master's degree in hydrogeology.

Rhona spent some time at Dounreay as part of the graduate scheme and worked part-time there while she completed her thesis for her master's degree.

She moved to Australia in January 2018 and is based in Brisbane.

Rhona is a member of Women in Mining, which promotes women in the mining and minerals sector. She enjoys sport and was the goalkeeper for the Scottish ladies' water polo team and played in a number of internationals, including one in the Czech Republic, shortly before she moved to Australia.

"It is really good she is continuing her STEM work over there and enjoying life," said Kathryn, who met husband Phil while they were working at Dounreay. They married and have two other children – Ranald, a 28-year-old naval architect who lives in Aberdeen, and 21-year-old Isla who is studying economics at Strathclyde University.



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