How my experience in Townsville helps with my desired career path

Danielle Atkins from USA, studying a Masters Degree in Marine Biology at JCU, Townsville Campus.

As an international postgraduate student, nearing the completion of my master’s in marine biology degree, I have been able to reflect on how my experience in Townsville will help me continue toward my desired career path in researching sharks. Studying marine biology on the Great Barrier Reef has been a fantastic stepping-stone for a career in shark research. Australia and specifically the GBR are renowned for their diverse marine ecosystems, rich variety of species, and commitment to marine conservation. Studying at JCU in Townsville has given me the opportunity to become a valued member of the RummerLab and Physioshark Project, led by Professor Jodie Rummer. Here I have access to resources, labs, and experts in the field, which has been invaluable for my thesis research project and networking opportunities.

Townsville is perfectly situated along Australia’s marine protected areas, providing opportunities for fieldwork and hands-on experience with sharks close to home. Having the RummerLab stationed on JCU’s campus has also allowed me to practice husbandry skills and observe the behaviour and biology of the sharks daily. Most importantly, I have been given the opportunity to work with international students and researchers, broadening my understanding of shark research and conservation on a global scale and facilitating collaborations with researchers and organizations from around the world. Working with such an incredible team has allowed me to be involved in multiple research projects, some of which are already on their way to publishing their results and findings. Witnessing every step of the scientific process and serving as an investigator and co-investigator on projects, is essential for establishing my credibility as a researcher and sharing my knowledge with the scientific community.

Living in a foreign country has also helped me to develop important personal and professional skills such as independence, adaptability, and cultural awareness which are valuable assets in any career. Specifically living in Townsville has exposed me to diverse cultures and perspectives of the Traditional Owners of the land. This is essential in research and conservation as many shark species are found in different parts of the world, each with its unique cultural and conservation challenges. Understanding and respecting these differences is crucial when working on global conservation efforts. Overcoming the challenges of living abroad has also enhanced my resiliency and problem-solving skills which are vital when working under the pressure of research, where unexpected obstacles and challenging conditions often arise. Overall, living and studying in Townsville has enriched my personal and professional growth, providing me with a diverse skill set and experiences that will greatly benefit my career in shark research and conservation.

September 2023