Rishab Pillai: Taking time off…… Productively

The much awaited lecture recess is here! I hope everyone did great on their assessments, mid-terms etc. Like all phases in life, even these hectic phases fly by before you realize it.

So let’s welcome the lecture recess! A great time to travel and explore Australia or maybe just kick back and relax and get some much deserved rest. With the numerous options around, it may be quite the task to decide on how to spend your week off. So I thought I’d share with you guys an option that I always consider when I have free time.

Being students in a new country gives rise to a few questions…… how do we make friends? how do we learn something new or improve our skills related to our course and mostly importantly how do we network?  (this one often comes up towards the end of course, however the earlier we start networking, the better it is). For me all these questions usually lead to one common answer…… volunteering!

Based on what your interests are there are always opportunities to volunteer. During my first few weeks at JCU, I expressed my interest in assisting someone working on a herpetology (study of reptiles and amphibians) related project. After talking to my lecturers and other researchers at JCU, I got lucky and before I knew it, I was assisting an honors student working on the movement and establishment of the invasive Asian house geckos in the Town Commons National Park, Townsville. This helped me gain some course- related experience while I got to see some the wildlife that is seen around Townsville.


The focal species of the project is the Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), Being nocturnal, we commence surveys after sunset, which is when we are greeted by this awesome landscape!

Volunteering not only helped me improve my skills and it is also a great way to meet like-minded people. This provides us with the much needed guidance during these early stages of our professional lives and helps strengthen our skill set. In addition to learning a wide range of skills related to undertaking fieldwork, it also gave me a chance to be productive when I took breaks from studying. Even if you volunteer at some place and it’s not course related, it still helps you improve your communication, interpersonal and leadership skills. These cannot be learnt from textbooks and lectures and no matter how good our grades are; these skills are sought after by employers. So hence, volunteering is a great way to spend your free time productively, while you make new friends and also add value to your resume


This is a Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides), which resembles an owl but is actually a different species, this one came to check out what we were up to during one of our gecko surveys.


If you hear something calling and it resembles a laugh, it is usually these guys, the Northern Laughing Frog (Litoria rothi)

As I have mentioned in my previous blog posts, being out in nature is what keeps me going and volunteering gave me that opportunity. We are so fortunate that Townsville has its plethora of green spaces and I am glad I can do my part to understand and protect them through volunteering. Similarly, based on your interests, there are a wide range of organisations you can look up or even the JCU Career Hub often lists of volunteering and internship opportunities. So we are incredibly fortunate to have the resources which enables us to gather a broad skill set.


Look at that smile! The Common Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)


Last but not least, the Asian House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus), their characteristic ‘chuck chuck chuck’ calls are common feature of the nocturnal urban soundscape.

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