Career Spotlight: Environmental Science - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Parent Lounge Update

Career Spotlight: Environmental Science

17 Jun 2020

Imagine being able to help farmers grow a sustainable business while positively impacting the Great Barrier Reef? That’s exactly what USC graduate Dave Clancy is doing. After completing a Bachelor of Environmental Science in 2019, Dave packed up his things and moved to north Queensland to work as a graduate extension agronomist.

Dave’s role is a key component of the agricultural industry that drives and supports positive practice change, resulting in more sustainable farming systems. He spends his workday doing a variety of tasks – from flying drones, to collecting soil or water samples, to producing maps.

USC Parent Lounge recently spoke with Dave about how his USC degree prepared him for a rewarding career in the agriculture industry.

What did you study at USC and when did you graduate? I studied a Bachelor of Environmental Science and graduated in April 2019.

Why did you decide to study this degree? As someone who has a curious mind and loves the outdoors, I was interested in the environment and wanted to learn more in that area.

What was your favourite thing about your degree? How did it prepare you? The degree gave me a broad range of skills that enabled me to transition into many types of environmental science jobs. It embraced current technologies and gave me the skills to operate drones, and process and analyse the data collected. In my current job we use drones to analyse sugar cane crops, so this subject in my degree was very helpful.

What are you doing now? How would you describe your journey since graduating? What have been some of your proud moments? I’m working full time as a graduate extension agronomist in the Mackay/Whitsunday Region. I work predominantly with sugar cane growers to improve their farming operations to have a positive impact on water quality and ultimately the Great Barrier Reef. Agronomy covers topics such as plant nutrition and health, while extension focuses on bridging the gap between new research/technologies and on the ground operations. The journey has been challenging but enjoyable and I have learnt so much in the time since graduating. I had a proud moment at one of the regional workshops where I presented to growers, resellers, agricultural service providers, university researchers and government water quality scientists about the project I have been working on, the findings and what they meant. It was daunting being the youngest person in the room presenting to a bunch of experienced professionals, but it went really well and helped with networking and establishing myself in the region.

What does an ‘average’ day in your job look like? There really is no average day in my role as there is such a diversity of things to do. Some days you may be out in the field collecting soil and water samples, or cutting cane for one of the various trials. Another day you might be flying a drone collecting photos and multi spectral imagery, followed by an afternoon in the office producing maps on geographic information systems (GIS) software. There is a lot going on and I really enjoy the variability in the day to day tasks.

How is your industry changing? Over time, there has been increasing levels of regulation around fertiliser, pesticide and land management use by growers. When working in an extension capacity, part of my role is to help growers improve their farming operations to reduce their environmental impacts and often this can improve profitability as well. There is a lot of change in this space and the industry as a whole is quite open to it.

What is something about your career/industry that many people don’t know? I don’t believe many people actually know what an agronomist or extension officer does. They are key components of the agricultural industry that drive and support positive practice change, resulting in more sustainable farming systems.

What is your favourite thing about your job/career? Through my job I feel as though I am genuinely helping people improve their farming systems as well as having positive outcomes for amazing natural ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area/studying your degree? Give it a go! Environmental science is such a broad degree and you can end up taking many different career paths. Look at me, I’m working with farmers and the Great Barrier Reef. Over the course of the degree I have no doubts you’ll come across some topics that will take your interest and you can specialise in those areas.

If your child is interested in a career in Environmental Science, join USC’s online Open Day on Sunday 19 July, or chat online with a current USC student every weekday from 10am to 5pm to get their questions answered.


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