Why study with me at La Trobe in Albury-Wodonga?

My Mentorship Philosophy

I have two aims as a postgraduate supervisor. My practical aim is to help you become competitive for a job in the field you wish to pursue. My aspirational aim is to help you achieve your dreams. Working in animal ecology and conservation is a fun and exciting, yet highly competitive and often difficult career, so although I can’t offer guarantees about success, I do offer a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment in which to learn how to be competitive. I will provide training and opportunities for research and experience and will help you develop your own research project ideas. I will teach you how to write your own grants, research articles, and popular articles, I will write letters of support for you, and I will generally be your advocate. However, your project is your project, and it will be up to you to complete the tasks necessary to earn your degree. Throughout your time at La Trobe, I will offer constructive criticism (with as much sandwiching as possible!) to help you learn what works vs what doesn’t, in a safe environment.

I also have a few expectations of you. I expect you to treat people and your study animals with respect and kindness. I expect you to read as much as you can in the area you decide to study so that by the end of your degree, you are the expert. I expect you to pass on what you learn, by training undergraduates, helping new postgraduate students, giving public talks, and/or publishing your work. I expect you to balance being a critical thinker with keeping an open and generous mind, which is one of the hardest things to do in science.

Lastly, I expect you to remember to have a life outside of your studies. People who focus on academics too much are often productive, but they can also burn out, suffer psychological problems, or cause them for people in their lives. Remember that this is just a degree, and there is much more to life. As Cypress Hill said in Rock Superstar (2000), “It’s a fun job, but it’s still a job”. Always let me know if this is becoming a problem, so that we can work together to find a solution.

Academic Opportunities

If you’re interested in how animals function within their environment, or how to conserve them in the face of major environmental challenges, then you won’t find a better place than La Trobe’s Wodonga campus. In addition to my main focus on physiology and reproduction (see my projects page here), we have a range of staff with specialties in genomics and molecular biology, environmental chemistry, population ecology, freshwater ecology, and conservation, who can provide co-supervision in these areas. The Centre for Freshwater Ecosystems has a world-class laboratory with facilities for animal housing, animal physiology, environmental chemistry, and ecotoxicology, as well as everything you might need for field research.

Within the School of Molecular Sciences, we also have the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science, through which we can access powerful capabilities in proteomics, genomics, and microscopy. This is also a major route for collaborating on research questions that might have applications to human health or engineering.

Finally, I offer a range of collaborative research opportunities, internally at La Trobe, locally at nearby Charles Sturt University, and across Australia at the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University, University of Canberra, and James Cook University.

Career Opportunities

Albury-Wodonga is a great place to network with agencies and consulting firms who do on-ground research, management, and conservation. To name a few, we have local offices of the Office of Environment and Heritage (NSW), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (VIC), NSW Department of Primary Industries, North East Catchment Management Authority, North East Water, Murray Landcare Collective, and local councils. There are also nearby offices for Parks Victoria, Winton Wetlands, and Goulburn-Murray Water, and I have research links with North-Central CMA, Arthur Rylah Institute, and Natural Resource Management in South Australia.

Lifestyle

If you’re an aspiring ecologist, biologist, or conservationist (or just someone who likes the outdoors), there are few places better in Australia to live than the Albury-Wodonga region. Here are some of the things that make it great:

  1. It’s easy to get outside to enjoy the outdoors, fast. Albury-Wodonga is adjacent to the Alps, which offer skiing in the winter, and hiking in the summer (and potential field sites!). The Murray River is a great place to swim, go for a relaxing float, or go fishing (and research turtles or fish). There are heaps of bike paths around the towns, as well as mountain bike trails in the hills.

  2. Compared to Australia’s larger cities, the cost of living is much lower, so your scholarship stipend will go farther. It’s easy to find inexpensive places to live close enough to the uni to walk or ride a bike in.

  3. I have field sites for my research within a 10 minute drive of my house. I can even bicycle to some of them. This reduces the cost of research, and can make work-life balance a lot easier than making long trips out to a remote field site (though we can do that too, if you want).

  4. Albury-Wodonga is smaller than a capital city, but it’s one of the biggest regional centres in Australia. It has all of the necessities and most of the amenities. We get Australian bands playing regularly at pubs, the SS&A, and Gateway Island. Both Albury and Wodonga have lively play and musical schedules. Both towns have regular social events, especially in the summer. It is overall a fun, friendly, relaxed, and welcoming community.

  5. If you need some big-city exposure from time to time, we can design a project with components at the Bundoora campus in Melbourne, which is only 3-4 hours away by train or car, or with my collaborators in Sydney.

  6. For international students especially: if you want to see/work with some of Australia’s iconic wildlife and ecosystems, you’re only minutes away. We regularly see some of the local herps on campus and in the local parks, and there are great places for birding and seeing mammals (including platypus) just outside of town.

Keywords: graduate school, postgraduate research, PhD, ecology, conservation, biology, physiology, herpetology, turtles, lizards, frogs, snakes