Position: Senior Lecturer, University of Waikato.
Field: Soils in Antarctica.
Dr Megan Balks didn't know what she wanted to do once she left school but her interest in science led her to enrol at Massey University to do a BSc degree. She thought this might lead into teaching secondary school maths and physics, or maybe a job in a carbon dating laboratory. At Massey, she got very interested in Earth Sciences, which was taught in the Soil Science department. She found soils and geology so interesting that she decided to make soil science her major.
Once Megan finished her degree, she got her first a job as a soil scientist with DSIR (now known as Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research) in Dunedin, working on soil surveys in the Central Otago region. She later moved to Hamilton, where worked as a half-time assistant lecturer at the University of Waikato while completing her PhD degree on irrigation of effluent onto soils (which is often a better option than discharging effluent to a river or the sea).
Megan is now a senior lecturer in Earth and Ocean Sciences at Waikato. An opportunity to travel to Antarctica with some of her former colleagues from the DSIR led to her ongoing research work in Antarctica – she has had 18 field trips to the ice since 1990.
For her Antarctic research work, Megan collaborates with scientists from many other countries and now has friends all over the world. Her work has taken her to conferences and visits to other researchers in Russia, China, United States, Thailand and Switzerland. In her most recent overseas trip, Megan visited colleagues in the USA, Italy, Holland, Spain and Portugal.
Read more about soil scientists at work and see Megan's soil-related tapestry artworks.
Nature of science
One of the myths of the nature of science is that science is a solitary pursuit. In reality, only rarely does a scientific idea arise in the mind of an individual scientist to be validated by the individual alone and then accepted by the scientific community. The process of science is much more often the result of collaboration of a group of scientists.
This article is based on information current in 2007 and 2018.