Born in Paris in 1965, Isabelle Durance was nominated by Cardiff University as ‘best returner to the workplace’ in the Welsh Woman of the Year awards, 2008. She works on climate change and ecosystems in the School of Biosciences.
I moved from France, my homeland, to Wales in 2003. My three children and I embarked on a whole new life, and the people of Cardiff have given us all their warmth and camaraderie. Our family has found its harbour in the house with the cockerel weathervane, and has even grown when my fourth child came along to add some Celtic life in 2004. Now, when the children speak of their next step, to university, for them there is no question: it can only be this side of the sea. I feel so thankful that they’re so settled.
When I left Normandy, I also left a permanent lectureship in ecology, and started on a career break that was to last nearly four years. But in this extraordinary country there is often help at hand. It came in the form of a charitable trust, a concept that is so typical for these islands, called the Daphne Jackson Trust. Their mission is to help women return to science. With their huge support, I regained confidence in my skills, wrote a research proposal, and finally was awarded a two year-fellowship funded through the Trust by the National Environment Research Council.
And these, for me, are the cherries on the cake: a happy family and now an exciting job in one of the most prestigious universities in Europe. My research aims to understand and model the impact of climatic change on river ecosystems. Cardiff University has been researching and monitoring rivers in Wales for more than 25 years, amassing long-term data that are unique world-wide for assessing how past and future climate changes will affect river functioning and key freshwater biodiversity. For me, tackling climate change is much more than just a scientifically exciting and challenging field of research: we need to make a difference now to the world in which we live, but more so to the world that we hand on to our children. I’m profoundly thankful to Cardiff University for this once in a lifetime opportunity.