Recently, Rebecca (a cheerleader and scientist from Australia) sent me this note:

“I have just found out about your organisation, and I just wanted to say thank you. In Australia, cheer is still a pretty new thing, and a lot of people are still trying to figure out what it is. This year will be my second full year being a cheerleader, and my first as a degree holder (Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Wildlife Biology). I think that the message you are sending around–that just because you are one thing, that doesn’t exclude you from being something else–is something that everyone needs to know. I would love to be involved in something like this!”

You are now, Bec! Let’s introduce you to the SciCheer readers! Thanks for being our new ambassador in Australia!
SciCheer: What turned you on to science and when?
Bec: I have always been interested in the natural world, especially with animals, I just never thought that I would be lucky enough to turn it into a career. A few years ago my boyfriend was looking into attending university, and he asked me to get some information for him. I saw that there was a course offered by Murdoch University in Conservation and Wildlife Biology; the description read, “if you love animals and want to change the world, then this is the degree for you.” I realised that I could spend the rest of my life doing something that I loved.
SciCheer: What is your degree in and from where?
Bec: I have a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Wildlife Biology with a minor in Animal Biology, from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia.
SciCheer: Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Bec: My favourite courses were always those that dealt with animals. Animal diversity, Wildlife Biology, Conservation Biology. But even my least favourite courses were very interesting, as they helped to show a bigger picture in which everything, animals plants and people, has to work together in order to function.
SciCheer: What team do you cheer for?
Bec: I cheer as part of an All Star cheer gym in Western Australia, Fit 2 Cheer. This year I am on three teams, one cheer team and two dance teams.
SciCheer: What came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
Bec: I would say science, although, like many little girls, I also wanted to be a cheerleader. Science and the natural world has been accessible to me my whole life, and I’ve been lucky to grow up in a place with such unique flora and fauna. Cheerleading in Australia isn’t as well known as in America, and so until recently I wasn’t even aware that there was an opportunity to pursue the sport, here. I started cheerleading because of a display at university, although I never cheered for my university team, and to be honest I didn’t even know we had one. I started looking into cheer, and discovered that there were cheer gyms near me. I emailed a few, and Fit 2 Cheer got back to me the quickest, and with the friendliest attitude. I went to my first training session, and I was completely hooked from that day forward.
SciCheer: Can you describe a typical day for you?
Bec: While still at university, a typical day could include volunteering at Kanyana (a wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Perth hills) for the morning. I would then drive to uni for lectures or other classes, then drive to the gym for training afterwards. While I have finished my degree now, my days are still filled with volunteering and training, while also looking for a job and trying to increase and improve my skills so that I can eventually get my dream job of being a zookeeper.
SciCheer: Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders help or hinder your studies or professional experiences? (Are you taken seriously?)
Bec: I find that cheerleading is still such a new thing in Australia that a lot of people don’t take much notice. I have had varied responses from people but most of the time people know me before they know that I’m a cheerleader, and so the potential negative stereotypes don’t have much effect on my study or career.
SciCheer: How did your fellow cheerleaders accept your interest in biology?
Bec: Most of my team mates call me animal obsessed, which I don’t mind at all. I think some of them are a bit confused how I can even like snakes and lizards, but I show them photos and videos anyway. 🙂
SciCheer: Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following different dreams?
Bec: I would just say to follow your heart, and that you don’t have to be any one thing. There’s no reason that you can’t have two different loves. I do, and I know that a lot of other people do too. In the end, it’s all about doing what makes you happy.
SciCheer: Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Bec: Do what you love, and never be afraid to do something just because you think you won’t be any good. You can surprise yourself.
SciCheer: What are your plans for the future?
Bec: I hope to someday soon become a zookeeper. I plan to do as much volunteer work as I can, and continue pushing myself in cheerleading so that I can be the best person that I can be, physically and mentally.
SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Bec: Traveling to nationals in 2010 with my teams the F2C Sapphires and Opals to compete. Seeing so many cheerleaders in the one place was amazing for me, and the atmosphere is one that I will never forget.
SciCheer: Best science-related experience?
Bec: In January this year I was able to participate in work experience for a week at the Perth Zoo. I worked in the primate section, and being able to see and help take care of so many amazing animals was a wonderful experience. Being able to talk to all of the keepers there and see how they all contribute to conservation work was also really special for me.

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