BIOS3081 - Student Perspectives

Please enjoy a collection of student perspectives about BIOS3081 - Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems.

Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems

by Chris Lawson

You can follow Chris on Twitter and LinkedIn.

OtEE is the course that I pictured when beginning a Marine Biology degree. The syllabus has a nice mixture of the fundamentals in variety of marine life (e.g. plankton, fish, sharks and rays) and applied science (e.g. artificial reefs, fisheries). A large portion of the laboratory work is centred on systematically learning the differences between species, which is great if you are an animal lover. Although as always, the field trip is the standout.

A sevengill shark specimen from an OtEE practical. Photo by Stephanie Birnstiel.

The field trip at Smiths Lake provides a great opportunity to do some “real science” within a group project. Each group examines a different aspect of the ecology of the lake (generally a combination of some boating, lab work, and field sampling), however often interpreting the results will require collaboration between groups. You will be both surprised and impressed at how much you can get done (and learn) in less than a week, and are guaranteed to have a great time doing it. Pro-tip: Come with the ability to tie a bowline knot and you will surely earn brownie points from Iain.

A juvenile hammerhead shark specimen. Photo by Stephanie Birnstiel.

I found the lectures really interesting, with the range of guest lecturers all contributing to the success of the course – from using The Walking Dead to explain ecosystem modelling, to sticking GoPros to penguins heads in order to understand their feeding habits. The applied science in the course emerges with NSW Fisheries representatives talking about the work they do and the science they rely on, which provides a nice break from the academic bubble that students (and most lecturers) are accustomed to.

A sawshark specimen. Photo by Stephanie Birnstiel.

Following this course I did some volunteer work with the FAMER lab (the great people behind OtEE), and went on to complete a fantastic honours year with them.

Releasing juvenile Pomatomus saltatrix as part of my honours project. Photo by Stephanie Brodie.

Chris Lawson completed OtEE in 2015, and is now starting his PhD at the University of Queensland. Text is by Chris, photos are credited in captions. Chris submitted this perspective 3 March 2017.


Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems

by Georgie Dawson

You can follow Georgie on Instagram and LinkedIn

Prior to enrolling in Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems I knew exactly zero about marine science and where my degree was leading. After choosing the course out of pure whim I was happy to find out it started with a week-long field trip. Little did I know that this would be the highlight of my undergraduate degree, filled with adventure, bonding, friendships, and illumination into my future in science.

Image by Lucas Kas of Oliver Barry, Simone Herrmannsen, and Georgie Dawson at Smiths Lake, 2016. 

It took a short 3-hour bus ride to arrive at the bush and beach (well technically estuary) surrounding the Smiths Lake Field Station. After choosing a cabin we were delegated into research groups and assigned to one of the brilliant demonstrators. Each day was very hands-on, as each research group gained practical skills for a variety of marine science applications. Our days were filled with boating, exploring, and learning about the environment around us. At night there was great food and conversation – with a real bond developing between all the campers.

Image by Watcherff via Getty images of Bioluminescence, 2016, available here.

On the last night of the field trip we presented our research groups’ findings for the week, and celebrated by a campfire. A few of us walked down to the beach where we saw bioluminescence algae - it took us under a minute to dive into the water and swim with the glowing organisms under a pitch-black sky glittering with stars, far from artificial light. As you can imagine, it was the perfect way to end a faultless field trip.

Image by Lucas Kas of Georgie Dawson at Smiths Lake, 2016.

Once back on university campus, the course had a variety of incredibly interesting lectures and practical labs. It was wonderful to learn so much in such a short period of time, and in such an engaging way.

I could not recommend this course more if you want a fun, practical, and interesting experience at uni.

P.S. - You can (currently) find me completing Honours within the lab that runs this course and loving every second of it.

Georgie Dawson is currently an Honours student in the Famer Lab and took OtEE in 2016. Text is by Georgie, photos are credited below the image. Georgie submitted this perspective 27 February 2017.

Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems

by Hayden Schilling 

You can get in touch with Hayden by email.

I completed Ocean to Estuarine Ecosystems in 2013 and it was a great course. I found it to be one of the most diverse and interesting courses that I did at UNSW. As the only marine science subject I did in my undergrad it was a lot to learn but it was worth it, I learnt so many things including oceanography, plankton, sharks and even fisheries ecology.

One of my favourite parts of the course was the field trip to Smiths Lake. Over the course of a week, the course was broken up into groups to conduct experiments with the overall goal of creating a whole ecosystem model of the lake. My group used a really cool sonar camera to monitor the movements and abundance of different size fish in deep and shallow parts of the lake. This research was even published (Becker & Suthers 2014).

I enjoyed the course so much that I continued with marine science and did honours with Iain Suthers in 2014, investigating predation of zooplankton by small fish in Sydney Harbour. I have continued research in marine science and I am now completing a PhD with Iain Suthers and NSW Fisheries looking at the ecology of tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix) in eastern Australia.

Hayden Schilling is currently a PhD student in the Famer Lab and took OtEE in 2013. Text is by Hayden Schilling, photos are by Alex Milne-Muller. Hayden submitted this perspective 17 February 2017.