Dr Zimmer and collaborators from the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Royal Botanic Gardens are in a race against time to protect the famous Wollemi Pine from extinction.
Less 100 plants were discovered as part of the original Blue Mountain population in 1994, Dr Zimmer is working to safeguard this critically endangered species, by investigating the conditions required to establish much-needed insurance populations.
Already, Zimmer’s experiments indicate that the light levels within the wild population may be far below optimal for seedling growth. This unexpected twist opens up the possibility that future colonies could be established in very different environments to the original population.
But this is just one of the many interesting projects Dr Zimmer is involved in.
“I just work on rare plants, where they live and what they need,” she explained. This entails anything from filling out extinction risk assessments, to marching into the wild to investigate a possible sighting of a rare plant.
Dr Zimmer puts her passion for conservation down to her upbringing growing up in a town known for environmental issues that led her to study conservation and development, “so that I could be one of those people that come back and know everything, and solve all the problems.”
Whilst she admits that it turned out to be a little bit more complicated than that, she cherishes the ability to inform decision making with science.
“There is something really good about working at the interface of science and management, in that you can actually make a difference on the ground,” she said.
However, ultimately Dr Zimmer’s favourite thing about working with the Office of Environment and Heritage is the people, who she described as “interesting and intelligent, and passionate about what they are working on.”
Dr Zimmer does not believe she has been disadvantaged by being a woman in the workplace. However, Zimmer acknowledges that biases often enter the workplace as women enter their late 30’s, due to increased family commitments. To this potential challenge she boldly declares, “I am ready!”
Dr Zimmer’s sage words of advice for aspiring female scientists. “Women can underestimate their abilities where men overestimate theirs. Don’t be intimidated.”