Welcome Back Eloise Fetterplace and Kate Johnston

We catch up with our Project and Communications Officer Eloise Fetterplace and SEI researcher Dr Kate Johnston as they both return to the Institute this month.

Photo by Johannes Weißmüller, via Unsplash
Photo by Johannes Weißmüller, via Unsplash

The Sydney Environment Institute is excited to welcome back both Postdoctoral Research Fellow Kate Johnston and Project and Communications Officer Eloise Fetterplace this month. Both Eloise and Kate have been on parental leave after welcoming their beautiful bubs Frankie and Tilda at the end of last year. Here, Eloise and Kate reflect on their transitions into motherhood, and what they are looking forward to back in the office.

Eloise will be returning to her role as Project and Communications Officer, which has been filled for the past ten months by the wonderful Christine Dundas since the arrival of baby Frankie.

Eloise started at SEI in 2017 as a casual administrator and events assistant while completing her Master of Communication at UTS. Her interest in communications saw her take over the social media accounts and move into a permanent role helping to coordinate SEI projects, while also managing internal and external comms.

“I am proud to be a part of an Institute that works incredibly hard to support and elevate critical environmental research, and I’m looking forward to being back in the thick of it, amongst an extraordinarily talented team. That said, it’s possible you may occasionally find me crying in the hallways of the Quad because I missed morning tea time with my child, but I assume that’s a normal part of the return-to-work adjustment.”

“It’s been strange experiencing the joy of having a child, amidst the backdrop of everything that has happened in the world this year. After spending the first months of Frankie’s life indoors —escaping the smoke from the bushfires, and then in COVID isolation— I was keen (and feeling very grateful) to get outside and show Frankie what was beyond the four walls of our apartment. We spent a lot of time exploring nearby walking tracks along the Cooks River. Frankie affectionately yelling at every dog, bird, or cyclist that passed us, while I listened to news and political podcasts. It was the perfect balance of pure joy and sobering reality (which pretty much sums up being a mother).”

Returning from parental leave after welcoming her beautiful baby Tilda, Kate Johnson will be resuming her role as Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the ARC funded project FoodLab Sydney.

A core researcher since SEI’s early days, Kate was a key research associate on multiple projects including the Sustainable Fish Lab, Sustaining the Seas, and a partnership between USYD and the Taronga Conservation Society where she developed and trialled a holistic tool for measuring socio-cultural, economic and ecological dimensions of conservation.

“My time off has been really precious. I’ve been getting to know this new little person, Tilda, and also getting to know myself as a mother…your capacity to undertake all sorts of new physical, emotional and mental activities grows (this is probably true of many challenging situations). … And, of course Tilda is growing and learning every day, so you kind of get swept up in that too, in these moments of discovery.”

Whilst juggling motherhood, Kate has been busy adopting her other role as founding editor of a new food magazine, Counter Magazine. Having just finalised the second issue on the theme of renewal, Kate has had the opportunity to hear from people in the food industry and the challenges they have faced during last summer’s devastating bushfires and the ongoing pandemic. With these stories and voices at the forefront of her most recent work, Kate is looking forward to returning to FoodLab with an emphasis on understanding the impact that these crises have left on the food industry.

“The industry has really suffered but there has also been a lot of interesting changes and a lot creativity and adaptation. I don’t expect to just go back to my research as if the world hasn’t changed. While the popular slogan is ‘we’re all in this together’, the pandemic has really highlighted the stark reality of inequalities. But at the same time, the foundations of so many industries and institutions are being shaken up, not only by these double crises, but also by global social and environmental movements. It’s a really interesting time to research food justice.

“I’m looking forward to being back in SEI’s interdisciplinary environment. I really get a lot out of meeting new researchers and practitioners and learning about their work. It’s a really creative and generative environment to be in. And, this is what we need right now, opportunities to work across disciplines, ideologies, political parties [and more].”