February marks the beginning of a new academic year. The University becomes alive again with the hustle and bustle of students who are starting a new chapter in their lives, a rite of passage: the day they start university.
As a first year zoology student, the world is your oyster. There are so many fascinating things to study here at UNE. In the words of Sir David Attenborough: ‘…the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.’ Studying zoology is all about making these discoveries for yourself. Whether your interest lies in entomology, ornithology, animal behavior or physiology, you now have the opportunity to learn from some of the most interesting and quirky scientists in the world. And, yes, I put myself in the quirky category because after all, it takes a particular personality type to want to work with animals and not people.
As a zoology student, you now have the opportunity to be involved in voluntary fieldwork with a variety of PhD projects. Zoology is, for the most part, the study of animals. Not just the cute and cuddly kind, either. The current PhD projects focus on a variety of different species, including work on Noisy Miners, microbats, Bell miners, mist netting, entomology, and ecological monitoring, all of which reflect how vast a field zoology research is. Fieldwork allows you to get ‘hands-on’ experience while you are studying. At the end of your degree, fieldwork experience will become a valuable tool for your future endeavors of gaining employment or deciding whether you want to continue on to become a researcher and maybe even earn yourself a Doctorate. The possibilities are endless! All you need to do is ask any of the PhD students or your lecturers for volunteering opportunities.
Zoology is not just about spending time in the great outdoors, though. As a student, you will also learn how to study and draw specimens in the laboratory, use statistical programs (something most of us hate at the beginning but you will soon realize how valuable this skill actually becomes as you continue through your studies!), and, writing essays. All of these skills can and will be improved as you work through your degree so do not worry if you are not particularly good at writing or drawing just now. The degree is designed to improve your naturalist and researcher skills and help you to learn what your specific skills are as a zoologist. Science is, after all, a knowledge base that scientists and those in training want to make contributions to, conserve, and make new discoveries in.
The first year of your degree is, therefore, a very exciting time! You have started on the path to learning all about the ins and outs of the animal kingdom, the variety of habitats, and the relationships animals have with each other and their environment. So, enjoy your studies and university life and we will see you around campus!
Photo credit: Kathryn Lambert