Dr Paterson spent her first 18 years in Albany, Western Australia, and then went to Curtain University and gained a Bachelor of Applied Science. She then spent a number of years travelling the globe on a variety of small vessels. She settled in England and worked at Southampton Institute, a university sector college. During this time she completed a Masters in Research and looked at the relationship between diatoms (a microscopic plant) and heavy metal contamination. Dr Paterson returned to Australia in 2000, and in 2002 began a PhD at the University of Western Australia examining the distribution of microscopic animals and their impact on microscopic plants in the Leeuwin Current – the only current of its type to flow towards the poles. Following this a postdoctoral position with the University of Tasmania allowed Dr Paterson the chance to live in Antarctica for a year. Her study investigated the role of viruses and bacteria in annual sea ice. Currently she is working on the Sea Sciences field in the center of UWA located in Albany, Australia.