I have never been what you would call an “outdoorsy” type, so it probably came as a bit of a shock to my friends and family that I chose to study a Bachelor of Animal Ecology! I was told this degree involved a lot of hands-on fieldwork which wasn’t quite what I had in mind — but it sure has been an amazing and worthwhile journey!
While other students were starting to feel the week 3 pinch, we kicked off our third week of Semester 1 by heading off to Stradbroke Island for a weekend. We chased ghost crabs and made casts of their burrows, played with drones and various other scientific gadgets, tailed some postgraduate students and helped them with their research, and of course we swam and swam and swam.
Over the past two years, we’ve also experienced the Noosa National Park field trip, the Chambers Island field trip, the Hervey Bay day trip of whale watching, camping at Mon Repos and watching the adorable baby turtles hatch, three days on Fraser Island to perform shore bird surveys and explore USC’s own research station, Dilli Village! There were also countless local excursions to perform research on the health of our campus lakes, brush turkeys, and collect invertebrate samples at Point Cartwright.
It’s difficult to pick a favourite fieldwork experience so far, although the whale watching was absolutely incredible because the mother whale was showing off her calf by pushing it to the surface and a few of the students got sprayed in the face by the whales (even if we weren’t animal lovers, this still would have been an exciting experience). The next best experience happened while we were sampling invertebrate populations from one of the many lakes on campus and my friend Annie ended up in a pair of waders, chest deep in smelly pond water. Well, maybe it wasn’t a great experience for her, but I certainly enjoyed laughing at her.
The best thing about these excursions is that not only are they a whale-load of fun, they also teach you practical skills and give you vital experience for the workplace. The most important thing is that you make the most of these trips, enjoy your time with your fellow animal lovers, embrace the bugs and spiders (there will be many along your journey) and always pack mozzie repellent (seriously always, trust me on this).
The next exciting thing on the list for Animal Ecology students is the opportunity for a work placement or special research project, which is where the opportunities really are endless. Some of these include working in Cambodia or Laos with the Free the Bears program, being a part of whale research in Ecuador or Tonga, and primate research in the Amazon. I’m definitely having a hard time choosing!
It’s safe to say, I got over my dislike of the outdoors pretty quickly and have ended up truly enjoying and looking forward to these excursions, placements and projects. I can’t wait to dive in to the next adventure!
By Jessie Bettega