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Studying Science to become an ecologist: Alana's story

This article appears in: Environmental Sciences
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CDU student Alana de Laive has developed a keen interest in wildlife and herpetology. She has worked in various roles as an ecologist and wildlife keeper and wanted to further her career by undertaking a part-time Bachelor of Science (Ecology) degree with CDU. Alana is continuing her studies with an Honours project focusing on the conservation of the giant Amazon River turtle.  

I decided to go back to studying because I wanted a more meaningful career

Alana de Laive holding turtle

Why did you choose CDU?

I chose to study at CDU because I believe many of the subjects offered align with my area of interest, the wildlife and ecology of tropical Australia. Since completing my undergraduate degree at CDU I have gained employment as an ecologist and I have found that the flexible study options at CDU made it easy to study part-time while working.

What motivated you to take on study?

I have always had a passion for wildlife, particularly reptiles, and prior to studying I had spent a number of years working as a zookeeper in various zoos around Australia. During this time I became fascinated with the ecology, natural history and threatening processes of the species I was working with. I decided to go back to studying because I wanted a more meaningful career where I could research native wildlife and contribute to their conservation.

What are your goals?

I am about to commence my honours degree where I will be investigating the impacts of hydroelectric dams on the nesting success of the giant Amazon River turtle. This species is currently facing a number of threats, one of the largest being dams, so I am hoping my research will assist in mitigating the impacts of dams and the long-term conservation of the species. 


Alana de Laive holding lizard

What do you like most about studying with CDU?

In addition to developing a better understanding of subjects I am interested in, I think it’s great to be able to meet other people who share my interests and passions. At CDU I have met a number of other students and lecturers who inspire me, and I have learned a great deal from them. 

What do you like most about studying your specific course?

There are a number of fun field intensive subjects that allowed me to expand my knowledge of ecosystem functioning and develop valuable field skills. Part of my honours degree involves the Brazilian Amazon Field Intensive, where we will visit different areas in the Amazon basin. I’m looking forward to spending time in another part of the world with such high biodiversity!

When it comes to studying or assignments, procrastination is not your friend

What is your top study tip?

Creating and sticking to a study timetable. I can be a pretty unorganised person, so I found setting aside a certain amount of time every day to study or complete assessments for specific units to be very helpful.

When it comes to studying or assignments, procrastination is not your friend.


Alana de Laive in the bush

What are you passionate about?

I am planning to make a contribution to the conservation of northern Australian wildlife in any way I can. I am particularly interested in developing a better understanding of threatening processes for native reptile species, which are often overlooked in comparison to mammals and birds. I am hoping the research skills developed through my honours degree will allow me to pursue this as a career path.

Have you had any work/on/in the field experience you could tell us about?

I have had a number of jobs in the field of wildlife ecology. I am currently working as technical officer with the NT Government Department of Parks and Wildlife, Flora and Fauna division. In the past few years I have worked as a snake catcher, a field technician undertaking frog surveys, a fauna spotter/catcher, a wildlife keeper and a few other odd jobs.

I made a lot of new, like-minded friends from a variety of backgrounds


Alana de Laive and group of friends

Lastly, what has been a highlight so far?

I learned a lot from the unit entitled Ecosystem Function: Field Studies in Northern Australia. I studied Top End systems and gained new skills and perspectives. I also made a lot of new, like-minded friends from a variety of backgrounds that I otherwise wouldn’t have. Many of the other students were studying remotely or were international students, so the majority of us met for the first time on this field intensive. We had a great time visiting different locations all around the Top End with great company, including the CDU staff.

Study Science with CDU, a uni recognised across the globe for its research. Choose from online, on-campus, part-time or full-time options and specialise in biomedical science, biology, ecology, nutrition or chemistry. 


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