Future Earth Coasts

FEC Dialogue with female scientists: Dr. Sarah Kandrot

“Things don’t always go the way you might hope, but you just have to persevere.”

— Dr Sarah Kandrot

Sarah Kandrot is a geoscientist specialising the application of geoinformatics tools and technologies to coastal, marine, and environmental projects. She holds a PhD in Geography from University College Cork, where she previously worked as a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher. She is currently Head of Aerial Surveys at Green Rebel, an Irish company specialising in site investigations for offshore renewable energy (ORE) projects. Sarah oversees Green Rebel’s aerial survey division, which performs digital aerial marine ecology surveys and analyses to support consent applications for ORE projects.

Q: What skills and qualities does scientific research require

A: The top two skills that spring to mind are critical thinking and resilience. Critical thinking is so important, especially in the age of AI, fake news, and social media. Question everything – especially when it aligns with your world view, because you’re more likely to agree with something if it fits in with what you think is already true. In research, read literature with a critical eye. Practice pausing and asking yourself questions about the authors assumptions and interpretations.

Resilience is important because you will always face challenges in research and will sometimes fail. You have to be able to pick yourself up and move on. When I was doing my PhD, I performed a sediment tracer experiment on a high energy beach to try to see in which direction sand was being transported during storm conditions. I spent hours carefully sorting through hundreds of sediment samples and didn’t find any trace of my tracer. I was so dejected but my PhD supervisor reminded me that even that was a result-at least I know where it wasn’t ending up. I picked myself up and used that as a learning experience. Things don’t always go the way you might hope, but you just have to persevere. In the end, I got my PhD in spite of that decidedly failed experiment.

Q: How do you manage your time

A: I am very organised. I update my to-do list every day and prioritise tasks to ensure they are completed on time. I also make sure to set aside time each week to work on tasks that I know will take a significant amount of time to complete. I break them down into smaller tasks which I plan to complete over a few hours each week so I’m not in a mad panic trying to complete the work near the deadline in addition to all my immediate tasks. I find that by breaking such tasks into small chunks and working on them regularly, with breaks to work on other things in between, I have more time to reflect on what I’m working on, leading to better quality work.

Q: How to achieve work-life balance?

A: I start work early in the morning – I’m in the office by 7am. I am then able to finish work early in the afternoon and enjoy the rest of my day. I also get 2 solid hours of almost guaranteed disturbance free time in the morning to work on things that require my full attention. I am most awake and alert in the morning, so I get my best work done then anyway. I love getting off work in the afternoon rather than at 5 or 6 pm, because, in Ireland at least, it’s still light out in the winter so it feels nice to see a bit of daylight when I get off work and I think is generally good for my mental health. A small shift in the start and end of my work day has really improved my work life balance and even made me more productive. I think there’s really something to the cliche phrase “work smarter, not harder”.


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