I’m fascinated by forests. How they grow, how they die, and how they’re affected by fire, climate change and land management. While complex, managing and understanding forests now means keeping them healthy for future generations.
When I first went to university to study a Bachelor of Environmental Science I thought maths and statistics was a waste of time! How will I ever use this in the real world?
Well, now I use maths every day. It’s a tool to understand how forests work, as well as measure their health and the services and resources they provide. I’m currently working with the Victorian Government to develop a decision support system for sustainable forest management.
I was always fascinated by how things work. Solving a puzzle using maths is a bit like rock climbing; it’s not easy, at some point you get stuck and think of giving up, but then you look at it from a different angle, and there is your solution, that stepping stone you hadn’t seen before that takes you up to the top.
A two-year Masters of Environmental Management on the island of Crete, Greece, sounded like a fun adventure when I was a bit younger. Little did I know it would spark a love of research. Everything was a riddle, a wall that had to be climbed. I loved it so much I decided to keep going with a PhD.
Working in the male-dominated field of forest sciences has had its challenges, especially juggling being a lecturer, a mum of three and raising our family in a foreign country without family support around us.
But I am so lucky to be able to do what I love and help make a better world. If you find something you love, go for it and don’t let anyone stand in your way.
Dr Cristina Aponte is a Forest Scientist at the University of Melbourne and uses Maths to study and protect our Forests. In nature, just like in Maths, there is always something hidden that wants to be discovered.