On the island of Mindanao, Mount Apo towers above the clouds. At 2,954 m above sea level, its rugged volcanic peak is the highest summit in the Philippines. It’s a few days hike to the top, via a trail that meanders through tropical hard-wood forests and grasslands, crystal-clear lakes and smoking solfataras.
Rocelle Mendoza found herself at the summit of Mt. Apo, just over a year after starting her geophysics role at Energy Development Corporation (EDC) of the Philippines.
“I thought I’d be very excited to summit it,” Rocelle said. “But I was just really, really focused on getting there… And when I got there, it was very cold at the peak and I wasn’t used to the cold! I was at the peak for maybe five minutes and that was it.”
But sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination, that’s most important.
“It was one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my life,” she said. “Not because of how I felt when I was at the peak, but because of the confidence I gained doing it. Now I know I can do something when I focus or get my head into it. It made me understand that if I put my effort into something, I could achieve it.”
Having originally studied geology, Rocelle was interviewing for a geologist role at EDC, when she was asked to interview for the available geophysics role as well. And when EDC got back to her later to offer her a job, it was for the latter role.
“At that point they were transparent,” she said. “They were very honest with me. They said if I do accept the geophysicist role, I'd be the first woman geophysicist and I'd be joining a team of 20 men. At that moment I was thinking of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, but I was also kind of scared.”
Rocelle has had a few notable firsts in her life. Aside from being the first woman geophysicist ever at EDC, she was also the first winner of the Women in Geothermal (WING) / Seequent Visibility scholarship. WING is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation focused on promoting the education, professional development and advancement of women in the geothermal industry.
Rocelle says that she encourages her friends and colleagues to become WING members, regardless of gender. This is because WING is pushing for gender equality as a whole.
“I believe there's a big misconception, at least here in the Philippines, that if you're part of WING you're just pushing for women's rights and that's not true,” she explained. “We're fighting for gender equality. For people to have equal opportunities regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and that's very, very important. Because I feel that there are opportunities that are focused for one gender and that's not how it's supposed to be. I think the opportunity should be open for everyone and that the best suited person, whether male or female, should get the job.
Rocelle has been a WING member since 2017, when WING Philippines was launched during their National Geothermal Annual Meeting.
The Visibility Scholarship was created to further the development of a WING member, by funding one member each year to attend a global geothermal conference and present a research paper. Rocelle’s research is focused on the Mt. Apo region, where EDC already has two operating geothermal power plants- and why she found herself at the summit in 2016.
Rocelle’s research is specifically focused on using the magnetotelluric (MT) method to image Mt. Apo for geothermal resource development. The MT survey detected a resistivity anomaly in the region, which Rocelle is currently trying to characterise.
“I'm trying to correlate my resistivity model to the other data that we have of Mt. Apo, ” Rocelle said. “We're trying to see if the anomaly correlates with any other trend we can observe. We want to characterise the anomaly and explore possible interpretations so we can anticipate the possible implications. The anomaly could significantly impact how EDC further develops the Mt. Apo geothermal project.”
As the winner of the 2018 Visibility Scholarship, Rocelle was able to present her research at the 2018 New Zealand Geothermal Workshop. While she was in New Zealand, she also stopped by our Christchurch office to share her story and research with our team. At the end of her presentation, she shared an inspiring message for all women in the geosciences:
“It can be scary to be a woman in a male dominated industry. But I’d like to tell the women of my generation that it’s okay. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay as long as you don’t let that fear consume you and stop you from trying. Let the fear challenge you so that you’ll try… and find out you can do it.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Rocelle: