So you’ve flown into Townsville and you’re ready to start your semester abroad at JCU but you’re not sure how to take full advantage of your time here. You know you’re at a leading institute for the marine sciences so JCU must be teeming with opportunities to get involved in the research, but how do you start?
Here’s a top 10 list of helpful tips to gently nudge you into getting involved with the cutting edge research and field work you’ve been dreaming about while packing for Australia. Coming to a new place can be daunting, especially when you have to learn the quirks of a new institute but breaking down the essentials to JCU is easier than you think. It all comes back to recognising what opportunities are in front of you and acting on them at an appropriate time.
1. Get certified as a Rescue Diver
Not only is diving an essential aspect of marine biology, but getting your emergency oxygen provider and rescue diver certification will open doors to a plethora of fieldwork opportunities.
PhD students, Professors, and Master students are always looking for extra volunteers to help out with field work or research projects.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) also offers opportunities for students to join them on week-long cruises as part of the long-term coral monitoring project for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
Getting on the JCU or AIMS dive register is a great way of taking full advantage of being by the reef. Diving can be pricey but rewarding, a cheaper solution to getting certified is to go through the JCU Dive Club.
2. Network, network, network: talk to your professors
Unlike many other large universities, JCU gives students a unique chance to be taught by world-renowned professors in a relaxed setting with casual interactions. This is your opportunity to really get involved with the research here at JCU as long as you are consistent and persistent with your interactions. Professors notice the students who are actively involved in class activities and who are willing to put the time into really understanding the meat of their lecture. Staying after the lecture for a quick chat or shooting over a couple emails is a great way to initiate a conversation and is an excellent strategy to be considered for future opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask, you just have to reach out and use your resources.
3. Talk to your lab technicians and assistants
Although lab can be a hectic time to have a personal chat about research opportunities, lab assistants or technicians are extremely knowledgeable about the ins and outs of current research projects and are a great wealth of information.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re maximising your degree or you’re unsure about coursework, reach out and initiate a meeting outside of the lab to get some advice or hear their story as to how they’ve gotten to where they have.
4. Coordinate with your course coordinator
Unsure of the best courses to take or what would be appropriate for your timetable? Your course coordinator is your best bet for resolving any course conflicts or questions.
Schedule a meeting before the semester begins to go over whether the courses you will be taking will cater to your interests as well as challenge you appropriately. Not only do they have a strong knowledge base of the skill level of each individual course, but they will be able to present you with alternative options that you may not be aware of i.e special topics, work placements, or minor projects.
5. Go to the daily seminars at ATSIP and Centre of Excellence
Not only do you get to listen to the most recent and up to date research occurring, you get to learn from the best as well as participate with your professors in analysing the new information. This is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and get a chance to meet the researchers actively involved in the field of the seminar topic.
Find out more about the Australian Tropical Science and Innovation Precinct (ATSIP)
6. Get involved with campus life
Although this one isn’t strictly course work related, getting to know the people who are running the show is a great way of finding opportunities. Getting involved with the International Cafe set up by the International Student Support Team at JCU is a great way of meeting international students as well as people in your degree.
7. Schedule your marine boating exam
Another valuable tool is getting your boating certification and getting on the boating registry as a new student. The sooner the better and the more likely you will be asked to help out on trips. Don’t be afraid to ask our safety technicians or JCU staff as to what the best deals are – some companies offer a reduced deal if you are able to find 15 or more to do the course with.
8. Get your radio license
Not entirely necessary to get unless you’re planning on spending a decent amount of time on a boat, but it is a nice advantage to have (especially for AIMS). Check the JCU or AIMS registry to make sure you have signed up for the proper course since there are several options for a radio license.
9. Check your JCU emails daily
Students, JCU research staff, and your course coordinator are always sending out or passing on opportunities. Your email is your lifeline while you are here, use it to its fullest capacity and make sure you check it daily to not miss out on any opportunities -remember that these opportunities are usually a first come first serve basis so the early bird gets the worm.
10. Gain access to Facebook groups
The invention of Facebook pages and groups has revolutionised the sharing of information in real time, get ahead of the curve by joining Facebook pages geared towards JCU research students. This is a popular place for PhD students and Master students alike to post about last-minute additions to their team for trips out to Orpheus or Lizard Island or other field expeditions.