Jessica Leck is a passionate conservation ecologist and artist who has combined the two into a successful and rewarding career.
Hailing for Forster, Jess works across Worimi and Biripi country as Mid Coast 2 Tops Landcare founding executive officer and regional co-ordinator, in between lecturing at Charles Sturt University, Port Macquarie campus.
Next month Jess will join 100 women from across the world when they embark on a 12-month training program as part of the 2023-24 Homeward Bound 8 global leadership initiative.
Jess explained Homeward Bound 8 was designed to increase the leadership capability of women in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine) and enhance their influence and impact on the decision making that shaped the planet.
Following their 12 months training the women will visit Antarctica in November 2024 on a research voyage.
Jess said she was honoured with her selection into the prestigious Homeward Bound 8 cohort and being part of a network of women who have inspired her throughout her early career.
"I applied for Homeward Bound due to our shared valuing of the importance of diversity in leadership, and the role STEMM professionals must have if we are to effectively address the issues we face as a global community," Jess told the Great Lakes Advocate.
I would not be where I am today without the support of some key women in my life, and I am committed to being that for anyone who may need it.- Jessica Leck
"To now be a part of a cohort of 100 women and to work with them as we go through this training to better our leadership capacity is something I could only have dreamt of a few years ago," she said.
"I hope through this process and my fundraising work I can show other young women and people of diverse backgrounds how accessible and fulfilling a career in STEMM in a regional area can be."
The 30-year-old considered herself fortunate that work encompassed most of her interests; conservation, sustainability and gardening.
While mainly working with terrestrial systems the keen scuba-diver said the ocean also was one of her loves.
Also an artist working mainly in watercolour enables Jess to capture her favourite nature illustrations on paper.
And, in the past few years pottery has stolen her attention.
She is a member of Forster Arts and Crafts and can be found at the Breese Parade centre most weekends sculpting whales or painting mugs.
Jess graduated from Macquarie University with biodiversity and conservation degrees before studying for a Masters in Conservation Biology and then a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability and Climate Policy from Curtin University.
Originally from Glebe, Jess said she was passionate about demonstrating the career opportunities that go with moving to a regional area.
"Moving here opened up opportunities that I never would have been considered for in the over saturated environment of Sydney."
While Jess has been selected to participate in the program, it comes with a hefty cost.
To help fund her place in this program, Jess is offering schools and groups the opportunity to learn about her story, from her early career and the Homeward Bound program to her adventures in Antarctica, for a small fee over the next two years.
"In line with my principles of community led leadership, each visit will come with an open offer of ongoing mentorship to any young woman who hears my story and recognises a need for a supportive person on their journey.
"I would not be where I am today without the support of some key women in my life, and I am committed to being that for anyone who may need it."
Any educators, group co-ordinators or community members who would like to host Jess can contact her at www.jessicaleck.com. Visit dates are now available for term three in 2023 onwards.
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