Tag Archives: Environmental Science

Open Day

31 Aug

I haven’t visited my blog in over a week…..suffering withdrawals :O

I took a bit of time after my last post to sort out my thoughts as I surprised even myself a little. But I have to say it was extremely refreshing and nice to be so completely honest. I think often we feel as though, even if we aren’t totally honest with those around us, we are at least honest with ourselves. And in most cases I’m sure this is true, but I definitely think we can all be very good at lying, or at least omitting the truth, from ourselves on occasion!

Anyways, enough of the introspectiveness for today and onto much lighter topics 😀

It was the Open Day at my ‘Holy Grail’ university on Sunday. There are many open days currently running at the moments at Universities all over Victoria as it’s coming to close crunch time for Year 12s with regards to finalising their course preferences. During these open days Universities will run course information talks and campus tours, you can meet the staff and the visit the student information desks, and there is usually some form of entertainment, plenty of food and all the university societies come out to show their wares.

For anyone considering further studies, it’s an extremely valuable tool, and I am embarrassed to say that years ago when I attended the Open Day for the University of Edinburgh, where I completed my first degree, I spent most of the day discovering the bars in the student union, having taken a day trip with friends from school!!! (probably why I ended up studying Mental Philosophy….well that and the fact that the department head looked like Bill Pullman, who I had quite the crush on at the time 😉 )

This time round, I was the proverbial sponge and went fully equipped with a notepad (where I had already made notes of the timings of the information talks I wished to hear and tours I wanted to go on), a pen and a thousand questions 😀

Now, as you know, my first choice of course is located at this University, but though the course looked great on paper (or on the website!), you can never really tell what a course might be like in terms of the facilities, the staff and the general gut feeling you get from actually visiting a faculty and hearing it from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

I am extremely happy to report that my visit only increased my desire ten-fold. 😀

The School of Life and Environmental Science is housed in an almost new building with state of the art facilities that seemed to emanate learning, but though that impressed me and filled me with confidence, it was the smaller things about the place that most appealed to me. There were many photos on the walls of the past/current students out in the field, looking weather-beaten but very happy, on research projects and such like. It was the camaraderie in these photos that really stood out, between not only the students ( of all ages 😉 ) but between the staff as well.  There were also lots of stories up about work the department is currently involved in, both in the conservation and the research arena. It all thrilled me, and I hadn’t even been to the course information talks yet.

Needless to say, these talks and the subsequent discussions with the lecturers and admissions staff were extremely informative and exciting. The Wildlife and Conservation Biology course just sounds just about perfect, as I was pretty sure it would, and the way the staff run their department is right up my alley. They have an open door policy in the department  and one of their main aims is for a tight knit learning community therefore they actively encourage students to be in constant communication with their lecturers which obviously would provide an extremely supportive environment. The University of Edinburgh was an amazing university to be at, but I wouldn’t say that the professors in the Philosophy department were just what you would call ‘approachable’!

When talking to the Course Coordinator about my return to study, he was very supportive and said that I certainly would not feel out of place as the course is full of people from all walks of life, and, for all you mature-age students out there, he told me that they currently have a 70 year old women who started the course at the beginning of the year! Talk about inspirational, I wouldn’t mind spending some time with that particular women in the future!!! 😀

So, all in all, it was a highly successful day and though it may be a battle to get there, it’s a battle worth fighting 😀

Fact No 8: Bats always turn left when exiting a cave

Holy Grail

22 Aug

Well, after a looooooooong moving weekend, we are finally into our new house!

Of course, at this stage, it’s boxes everywhere, every surface covered with stuff we didn’t even know that we had (and surely wouldn’t have moved if we had seen it at the old place!) and yet-to-be  constructed pieces of furniture awaiting construction lying all over the place. In a word, total pandemonium :\

Even though this was my 19th move, I had forgotten, yet again, how exhausting the whole thing is! For the first time ever we actually employed the services of a moving company, who were fabulous, and I really thought that would cut out some of the stress. But, as amazing and astonishingly quick as they were, I was wrong about the stress! How is it that whenever you move house, it feels like your belongings have grown, mated and had babies since you moved in?? The house we have moved to is bigger than our old place, yet it feels like all of our possessions are only just going to fit!

The one thing I did learn from past moves , and this would be my advice to anyone in the same position, was to fiercely protect the kettle through-out the move to ensure that some well-meaning soul did not accidentally pack it and therefore we were/are always able to have that restorative and frankly required cup of tea which makes everything seem manageable 😀

However, enough with the rant, we are in, and I am delighted to report that I think we are going to be very happy in this new home. Here’s hoping that this will be the last of the moving now for quite some time, for various reasons. We now have ducted heating (a central heating system for those outside of Australia) so no more frantic freezing dashes to the shower in the morning, a dishwasher (thank the lord) and a garden suitable for many, many veggies patches and hopefully even a couple of chickens, which fills me with joy as sustainable gardening has slowly become a real passion of mine over the past couple of years. A blooming passion you might say 😉

We also (almost) have a view of the Dandenong Ranges, one of my all-time favourite places in the entire world. If fact, on walking to the tram early this morning (it’s a much earlier start in the new house), the sun was just rising behind Mount Dandenong causing that beautiful pink halo effect. Such an amazing sight, it made me smile 😀

But, the most important thing about our new home is its place as the base for our new beginning, this next chapter of our lives. With Bob’s career in Industrial Design just beginning to take off and my  proposed new start at University in early 2012, it’s a very exciting time for us, and for me, this house seems to encapsulate that.

Furthermore, as well as being much closer to Bob’s work thus cutting out the daylight thievery of our local road tolls, just around the corner stands the University that houses my ideal course: Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) (as well as many other relevant and exciting courses) 😀

Now, I have placed 12 different applications, as is allowed through VTAC (as mentioned in a previous post) but my first four preferences are all at this particular University (all because if I don’t get into my first preference then it would still be great to study in the same department (School of Life and Environmental Science), thus allowing me to possibly switch courses further down the track into my first preference). But even if I don’t get into to any of these preferences and end up at a completely different University, then the hope would be that I would eventually be able to transfer anyways, thus ending up at the same place.

So, today, when I was standing looking at the Dandenong Ranges in the morning light, there in the forefront stood my Holy Grail 😀 It was a very inspiring vision and though I am not quite there yet (in fact not even at the beginning!), it filled me with excitement for my future and I felt happier and more content than I have in a very long while!!!

PS Next time, I am organising movers AND packers!! ;D

Fact No 6: Polar bears look white, but they actually have black skin!

And the long wait begins

10 Aug

Well, I’m now going crazy with the wait to find out whether I get a place at University or not………..but there are plenty of things to keep me occupied in the meantime 😀

Since deciding to change my direction completely and study Environmental Science, I thought I should start getting as much real-life experience as possible, as well as continuing with my online short course in vertebrate zoology. I have to acknowledge that it’s a truly competitive world out there, and if I want to be a success, I’m going to have to make sure that when I graduate (fingers crossed 🙂 ) I am armed with even more than a degree. I know this all may seem a little pre-emptive, considering I don’t even have a university place yet, but I figure any experience is good experience and if I don’t get the opportunity to start at the beginning of next year then it may help me get in mid-year or even when 2013 applications open.

So, even though it may not be about my study specifically I thought I’d spend a bit of time posting about the experiences I’ve had so far!

My first point of call was to visit the website of a local wildlife organisation of which I was already a member, to check out if they had any opportunities available. Turned out that they run various courses each month, mostly one day but sometimes two, at exceptionally reasonable prices (I’m talking round A$20!!) covering various themes and topics. I immediately signed up for one of their starter classes entitled “The Rescue & Transport of Injured Wildlife”. I couldn’t believe that such a valuable resource was available and made so easily accessible, why had I not done this before 😀 So I attended the course a couple of weekends ago. Bob actually came with me because he wanted to show his support in my new direction which I love him for, but I have to say, the look on his face when he found out (while taking our seats) that is was a day long course and not couple of hours as he’d assumed was priceless 😉

It was certainly a most informative day, though quite hard at times. In fact, I’ve seen enough images of injured and distressed animals to last me quite some time (and the things that people do to animals!!!!), but I think it was an extremely useful course to have attended, because while my end goal is not to run a wildlife shelter or similar, I will most certainly come across cases very like the ones discussed and I want to be fully prepared. Also, just from a basic wildlife handling perspective, I learned so much in just 8 hours. It’s always great to hear real-world advice from someone who has been in the field for so many years (I believe this particular wildlife instructor had been rescuing for 20 years!)

 It’s funny though, when you attend these things…there’s always one isn’t there? You know who I mean….The person who you want to turn to and ask why they even bothered coming because they apparently already seem to know everything!! 😡 (just in case this is not clear, I am trying for a frown here…in fact it actually looks like frog with a crazy hair-do 🙂 )

Well, we had one. Some individual in the back row, who not only could not keep quiet (consistent interruptions), but who kept trying to contradict the course facilitator with her own pearls of ‘wisdom’. Now I’m all for open discussion and lively debate, but this girl clearly felt that she was the only one in the room (and the only knowledgeable one at that including our instructor) and that she was there for a private one-on-one. In fact, the course ran over by almost an hour, pretty much solely because of this person. I just don’t understand why some people don’t ‘cotton on’ as the old expression goes, especially when the rest of the class is staring at you and clearly getting quite frustrated! The rest of us were there to actually listen and learn from someone who had knowledge based on a wealth of experience and tried & tested methods, not to prove a point!

 Later in the evening, Bob and I were discussing the individual and I came to the realisation that I’m probably going to have to get used to the ‘Hermiones’ of the classroom environment. It’s been so long since I last went to school and then University that I’d forgotten all about them!! But, also, at the same time, it got me thinking about how NOT to become one. As an extremely passionate individual with a little bit of life experience under her belt who wants to become a contributor during classes and tutorials this time around, how do I walk the line between fascinated and knowledgeable student and total know-it-all??

And, as always…any advice on this point would be welcome!

Anyways, that’s my food for thought today 😀

 Fact 3: The Japanese Macaque (Snow Monkey) is native to Japan and eats a large variety of foods, including plants, insects and fruits, so far so normal, however what is fascinating with these creatures is that they wash their food before eating it! Researchers discovered this when they left sweet potatoes on the beach for a group of these monkeys. One female took a potato and washed it off in the water before eating it, and the rest followed suit. The ocean water not only cleans the food, but the salt in it offers seasoning, too!!

For more information about the strange eating habits of animals go to: http://green.yahoo.com/blog/care2/285/10-animals-with-interesting-eating-habits.html

Making the Application :D

8 Aug

So, I have made the decision to return to study 😀

Since coming to this conclusion, I’ve been spending lots of time researching, finding out all my options, what courses are available and how to make my dream of studying again a reality.

I guess I should let you know at this point that I have only been in Melbourne for 8 years and I’m originally from Scotland, therefore all my previous study was done over there, and I have very little knowledge about how the Australian tertiary schooling system works. So, as you can imagine, that has my first point of call!

There are plenty of great universities here in my local Australian state of Victoria, so it was a case of finding out which ones had the best courses, most suited to what I want to do.  Here in Victoria, most applications for all tertiary courses need to be done through a central admission centre (VTAC) and they allow up to 12 applications per year. The way it works is that they go through your preferences directly with the universities on your behalf until one of them acccepted (hopefully!).

I have found 9 suitable under-graduate degrees (from various universities) ranging from Environmental Science (Wildlife & Conservation Biology) to straight Science. My last three preferences are TAFE (Technical and Further Education institutions) courses which are shorter courses that will provide an entry into further university study should I fail to get accepted into any of my 9 under-grad preferences this time around. I don’t like to think of not getting in this time around, not when I am so anxious to get going, but I believe I must cover all my bases, as I have defintely learned in the past few years that nothing should ever be taken for granted!

As I’m sure many of you are aware, it’s a little more complicated applying as a mature-aged student than applying as a school leaver. Here in Australia, school leavers receive one score when they graduate (the ATAR) which is their key to university study. For me, what counts is an undergraduate degree that I completed almost 10 years ago (in a completely different field) and to be honest, the first time round, I wasn’t the best of students, preferring the many Edinburgh student bars on offer as opposed to the to the student library! Luckily, as a mature-aged applicant, there were other options available to me in lieu of having the ATAR as well as having prior tertiary qualifications.

I could submit a personal information sheet, which is pretty much like a personal essay where you can state your reasons for returning to study, committment etc. This part was easy, as brimming over with excitement as I am at the moment. It also is a chance to talk about what you have done to show your passion for your chosen area of study but more on this later 😀

The other option is to sit the local STATs (Special Tertiary Admissions Tests), a series of tests designed to assess a range of competencies considered important for success in tertiary study, covering writing, numeracy and analytic skills. Luckily, when I had flirted with the idea of studying last year, I had actually sat these tests, and I have to say that I was pretty happy when I found out that my results are valid for use for up to 5 years after sitting, so no more scary entrance exams for me this year 😉

So, courses found and requirements discovered,  I then went to VTAC, and when all applications opened on the 1st August, I lodged all my 12 choices through their Special Entry Access Scheme (this scheme covers applying as a mature-aged student) 😀 😀 😀

I am SO excited, nervous, scared and a whole number of other adjectives but I have to now call in all my skills in the art of patience (of which I do not have many) as I am in for a long wait. Not including early admissions, the first round offers don’t come out until Jan 16th!!!

5 months feels like an age at this point, but I just have to buckle down and get on with it. And there are plenty of related things I can be doing with my time between now and then….but that’s for a different post ;D

Fact No 2: Echidnas and Platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs instead of live young! (Both species found here in Australia.)

And just because……Echidna babies are called puggles!


For more information, please see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echidnas and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platypus

NB: I feel I must apologise for this detail laden post, but I felt that if anyone is reading who may be considering starting on the same journey, these descriptions could help in some small way!