04 Apr CTC Volunteer Profile: Science and Technical Writing Mentor, Dr. Renae Acton

Since 2016, CTC has been collaborating with the Australian Volunteers International Program to host a broad range of skilled professionals to provide technical support in achieving our conservation and outreach goals. We have since hosted four in-country volunteers working on grant writing, market research, and multimedia communications.

CTC has been fortunate to have remote volunteer Dr. Renae Acton since December 2021, as its science and technical writing mentor. She works with our team to help them develop their  writing skills, enabling them to draw out lessons learned and impactful stories from the work that we do.

Over the past eleven years, Renae has established a comprehensive specialisation in innovative higher education research, practice and evaluation. She completed her Bachelor of Education (with Class 1 Honours) and her PhD at James Cook University in Australia. More recently, she finished a postdoctoral project at Roskilde University in Denmark, investigating the effects of interdisciplinary, collaborative, problem-focused and project-based learning. Renae’s methodological capabilities include experience in working with mixed-method, longitudinal case study design; discursive methods and thematic analysis, direct observations; and mixed method survey. Renae has  international research experience across Denmark, Australia and Malaysia and a publication record that currently includes academic journal articles and a book chapter.

Here are Renae’s insights on her work with CTC so far.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working with CTC? 
The people. The CTC staff members I was fortunate to work with demonstrated their dedication, passion, and knowledge for and about ocean conservation and sustainable management each time we spoke. Listening to and reading through their projects and hearing their thoughtfulness was informative, inspirational, and super fun. CTC’s people have a great sense of humour.

Q: What were the challenges of remote volunteering and how did you take this on? 
What I really missed with a remote assignment was the opportunities for informal conversations – chatting over lunch or coffee breaks about work but with more sharing of life and culture in general. Instead, in scheduled meetings we made time at the beginning to share and chat. Of course, time differences and technological difficulties made some things more challenging too, but the CTC team was excellent in using Zoom and email to share documents, communicate questions, and jointly work together on writing projects.

Q: Did you have any ‘a-ha” moment during your time with CTC?
There are two things. Firstly, one thing I will ‘take-away’ from my time with CTC as a remote volunteer is the knowledge that the Coral Triangle is at the centre of global conservation and sustainability efforts. I see now that the kind of networked capacity building and human empowerment work that CTC does on a daily basis is vital to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals around Climate Action and protecting Life Below Water. CTC is enacting focused efforts in this area through supporting women’s sustainable business development, coral reef restoration, blue carbon capture, and species protection – who knew that the little Blue Swimming Crab was so important?! This on-the-ground work deserves recognition. Secondly, working with CTC I recognised the ways that effective writing benefits from rich evaluation and analysis. In seeing this anew the teams and I were able to discuss the connections between these areas and to consider how wonderful scientific stories, such as those CTC is involved with, might be better communicated through powerful writing.

Can you describe your assignment with CTC in five words? Inspiring, engaging, educative, expansive, transformative.


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