Studying Science & Following Turtles: My PhD in Australia

When you start a journey in science you never really know where it will lead you. My journey starts in Brittany, the western region of France. I have always been passionate about the ocean and so when I went to university, I naturally chose to study marine biology. When I was an undergraduate student, I always tried to be involved in some science-related activities and this helped me to develop my skills and to see how scientific research works.

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Outside the library, Deakin’s Warrnambool campus.

The milestone event was my Masters training period (the equivalent of an Australian honours program). At this time, my job was to analyse the movement of a big marine snail, called the queen conch. We were using an acoustic tracking network to follow them in a small Mexican inlet and I travelled there a couple of times to help to maintain the stations and to retrieve the data. I really enjoyed it. I also became really interested in movement ecology, the field of biology where you learn about the ecology of an animal by studying its movement. After my Masters training period, I kept working on queen conch movements for one more year as a research assistant.

When the project ended, I started to look for a stimulating but also challenging topic to keep developing my skills. At this time my then supervisor at Deakin was looking for a PhD student to work on sea turtle tracking. So I applied for the position, got the job, and moved for my new life in Australia in 2014. My job as a PhD student is now to improve the understanding we have about sea turtle movement using the latest GPS tracking technologies available. This includes, for example, how sea turtles manage to complete outstanding migrations between their nesting beach and their foraging ground. We are also interested in understanding how they are using the available space when foraging and to identify key areas for the purpose of species conservation.

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Turtle-tracking, via GPS.

So far my life in Warrnambool has not been disappointing. The Australian way of life is not too far from the French one, so it’s easy for a European to adapt. Deakin is providing me anything I need to do a good job. This helps a lot, particularly when it comes to sharing ideas and working collaboratively. The staff here are very easy to approach and very friendly, so you can be sure to find some help when you need it. If you are a motivated student, you can achieve great things here.

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The library, a familiar place for the PhD student.

Warrnambool itself is lovely, and even if the city is not as big as Melbourne, you still have quite a lot of things to do and see if you are a nature lover. What I personally enjoy when travelling around Victoria is how the landscape can completely change in only a few kilometres.  Tower Hill, the Great Ocean Road, the Grampians National park or the seals colonies of Cape Bridgewater are some of the great places worth spending a day or two to explore. Plus, Melbourne is only a couple of hours on the train from Warrnambool, so if you like the city life, it’s easy to go there during weekends.

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Beautiful Warrnambool, down by the campus lake.

So my final point, to finish my story, is to recommend to young scientists to take some time to travel and do some science in a foreign country. It is so rewarding!

For further information about studying at Deakin and to view the many degrees on offer, visit our international student page. Or ask us a question by visiting our international student enquiry page – we’re happy to help you get to know Deakin better.

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