I have officially started my classes at JCU: Conservation Biology, Conserving Marine Wildlife: Sea Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles, and Fisheries Science. The classes here are a little bit different than classes in the U.S. Mainly, undergraduate and graduate students are taught together however. Postgraduate students have extra assignments and our grades are weighted differently. Also, the class sizes here are a lot larger than I am accustomed to. Both of my past institutions Hampton University, a Historically Black College University (HBCU) and Nova Southeastern University are private universities and class sizes typically had a maximum of 30 students. I’ve always wanted to secretly experience what it would feel like to go to a huge university such as University of Georgia (UGA) like my older sisters and sit in a huge auditorium with 100’s of students. I can say now that I may actually prefer the smaller classroom setting just because I think I can be more focused on the lecturer.
Fisheries Science is probably my favorite course that I am taking right now. I may be a little bias since I am apart of Kerstetter’s Fisheries Research Lab back at Nova, but I really look forward to this course during the week. Dr. Garry Russ is a very enthusiastic lecturer; he always has interesting viewpoints and does not mind taking the time to answer students’ questions. Our first practical was to view a film called the “The End of the Line” which highlights some of the history of fisheries, overfishing, and basically how important it is to asses our fish eating habits and management. I didn’t even know that Mitsubushi has large amounts of frozen Bluefin tuna in stock or that in some countries there are well-known endangered species still on restaurant menus! I guess that’s’ why marine research can be really influential in the effort to bring about awareness and change. Also, I’m really excited because we are taking a field trip on the RV James Kirby to Cleveland Bay this weekend. We will be doing a trawling experiment to learn about bycatch reduction devices. I will be sure to post pictures on Facebook!
Aside from my studies, I’m still finding ways to enjoy the outdoors and Townsville. Over the weekend, I hit downtown Townsville with my roommates and some friends. On Sunday, I randomly got a chance to take a ferry to Magnetic “Maggie” Island!!! It was BREATHTAKING!! The coastline is dotted with huge boulders and trees; sad to say there are people living there, but their homes are beautiful. I went diving with Pleasure Divers http://pleasuredivers.com.au to Moltke Wreck, which is a shallow wreck, encrusted with corals and some sponges. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures because you could not see past your arm. The coral cover was nice, but there were a lot of coral fragments from dredging and cyclones. I did see lots of butterflyfish, damsels, nudibranchs, snappers, and urchins!! After the dive, I saw some wallabies, but was unable to get a picture. Hopefully I can make it back to Maggie Island for a hiking trip because I heard it has the largest population of wild koalas and you’re allowed to feed the wallabies sweet potatoes!!!
Lastly, I have some advice for those who want to travel here. Bring sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen!! The sun is no joke no matter your skin tone! I basically carry deodorant, drink lots of water, and have facial wipes with me at all times! Now that I have purchased a bike, I bike to the Uni everyday averaging around 10.6km(6.59mi) roundtrip. There are bike trails everywhere so you don’t always have to be on the road, no worries!!
It’s always best to get involved with the community, do extracurricular activities, or join a club outside of academics for personal wellness. I started training capoeira twice a week with Capoeira Brasil http://www.capoeiraschool.com.au with Professor Uakari and his group, an additional 3.8km(2.36mi) bike ride! Thankfully they welcomed me with open arms!! Some financial advice, its best to always have some cash on you just in case you need to use the bus and it helps budget as well. Luckily, I have Bank of America which is a part of a global alliance system, meaning I can use my debit card here without transfer fees. It may be even wiser to open an account here temporarily to avoid fees as well. Grocery stores like Coles or Woolsworth have free reward cards you can use, just today I saved $20 at Woolsworths so I really recommend using those reward cards.