Moving to Tasmania for Grad School: why Tasmania?

I mentioned I was going to do this sort of explanation post here and this is inspired by my explanation of why I chose New Zealand to study abroad here.

Quick back story: I graduated from the University of Maine with a bachelors in Marine Science (concentration in marine biology if that matters) last May. The last (almost) year I’ve been living home saving up and waiting to head to graduate school to get my masters.

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Okay now that we’re caught up let’s get to why Tasmania out of all places.

The story starts back in October 2018, my fall semester of my senior year of college. About this time is when I knew for sure I wanted to go get my masters in marine research and I sort of had an idea on what kind of research. I sent out emails to maybe 30 different professors all around the world asking if they had any room in their labs for a masters student. Over the course of couple months, probably over 100 emails including circling back to different people, I heard back from a couple professors.

Along the lines of me wanting to move to NZ for a semester (here) , moving to another country or across the world was definitely in the question for me. When researching what professors to reach out to, I was the most interested in the poles (Arctic & Antarctic). I always had a fascination with the colder, more desolate places (hence, me vacationing to Alaska almost every summer with my family growing up). Those areas were almost always the least studied, and had the most questions to be answered. Furthermore with climate change and all that jazz, the poles are going to be the first regions to be severely affected.

I became determined to research in the regions that still had so many unknowns. I want to conduct my own research that will make a difference in the world (cheesy but true).

Okay, so now we know the cold areas are the way to go, but why Tasmania, Australia then?

Amidst searching for professors to contact, and going through insanely cool publications, I came across the University of Tasmania. For those who are unsure (it’s ok if you are), Tasmania is an island state of Australia. The University of Tasmania has research connections to Antarctica.

How much more cold and desolate could you get than Antarctica?

Many professors in their Marine and Antarctic research department have conducted their very own research in Antarctica, and also have contributed to many publications surrounding extremely interesting topics.

More specifically, the interesting topics they conducted research on was seals. I have grown an extreme love and fascination for seals. It grew especially when I had the insane opportunity to be a summer intern up in Alaska and take care of harbor seal pups and sea otter pups. It’s still insane to me that I got to do that as a freshman in college, a time when I was so naive.

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*these are New Zealand fur seals i saw in Kaikoura, NZ*

Anyway, go past me! wooo!! I came across a few professors at the University of Tasmania who did research on seals, sea lions, penguins, etc. all around Australia, NZ, Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands.

Not only with seals, but will many many organisms, not much is known on how they are, or will, cope with climate change (the rising temperatures, increased storms, etc). Which creates an even bigger need for scientists to have some fun in some and figure it all out. Because if we don’t know, or can’t predict how organisms will cope to the change, we could very easily screw up every ecosystem in existence (dramatic but true).

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So long story short: I have been talking with a professor at the University of Tasmania since October 2018 about conducting my masters degree in Marine & Antarctic research alongside her. More recently we’ve determined that for accessibility purposes it would make the most sense to start researching Australian fur seals in my first year of my masters. Then, in my second year of research, depending on the results of the first round of data, maybe include other species too. It’s taken this long to figure out everything because….

  1. If I want to research seals in the Southern Hemisphere (specifically Australian fur seals), their breeding season, aka their most active time of the year, is in October
  2. It makes the most sense to start my degree at the beginning of semester & Aus/NZ semesters are not Spring/Fall they are semester’s 1 & 2. Semester 1 starts around Feb and semester 2 starts around July.
  3. I wanted enough time before the seal breeding season starts to prep my methodology and background
  4. I needed enough time after I graduated from my undergrad in May 2019 to get a student visa and move across the world
  5. I wanted enough time to breathe

*breathe*

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Hence, I will hopefully still be starting my Masters by Research in Tasmania at the start of their semester 2 this coming July. I am planning to research the baseline thermal physiology of Australian fur seals and maybe their heat flux. –> So how they handle temperature changes & heat, how they produce it, how they get rid of it and how they cope with it.

I think this is the most cohesive way I’ve ever explained all this so gold star for me! I hope this makes sense.

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