The Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders in Marine Sciences (ATSIMS) program was created to provide an exciting opportunity for indigenous Australians to learn more about marine science in an engaging and hands-on approach. Six schools were involved this year, and the JCU Turtle Health Research team was kindly invited to begin the program by speaking to three of the schools (Burdekin Catholic High School, Ayr State Highschool, and Ingham State High School) over a couple of days in the first week of May 2018. Three of our postgraduate research students represented the THR team: Adam Wilkinson (PhD candidate), Sara Kophamel (PhD candidate), and Edith Shum (MSc candidate).
“Our job was quite simple: to inspire the students with the research we are doing at JCU and to throw in every fun fact we know about turtles,” said Edith. “It wasn’t just us inspiring them to pursue a career in the field of marine science, but also to spread our love of turtles to the community,” she added.
Adam explained that they spoke to the students “about the great work that the JCU turtle Health team do, with both the hatchlings and wild turtles. We spoke briefly on a green turtle’s life cycle and discussed different species with the aid of some shells and stuffed props.” He very much enjoyed the whole experience, noting, “it was fun to engage with high school kids about turtles.”
All participating high school students were also shown our turtle rodeo videos to give them a better insight into some of the fieldwork that THR group does. (If you’re wondering what a turtle rodeo is you can read about it here.)
Sara also enjoyed the experience, commenting, “it was great to see how motivated the kids were. For me it was not only about sharing our research, but also about giving the kids an insight into how important it is to protect our ocean and its animals and to let them know that they actually can do a lot, starting by being interested and by sharing that enthusiasm with their family and friends.” There is great value in ‘spreading the word’, especially when the word is conservation and the benefits can be felt by local communities as well as the marine life.
“Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to be studying at JCU, but being able to tell the kids about our passion makes it clear that programs like ATSIMS spark not just the minds of young scientist, but also reinforce my love for marine science. It was an incredible experience to be involved with ATSIMS, and I couldn’t be happier to represent the JCU Turtle Health Research team along with Adam and Sara,” concluded Edith.
Thank you to ATSIMS for including us in this exciting program; opportunities to be marine leaders at such a young age don’t come around very often. Finally, good luck to all the students who took part in the program; we hope it has been useful and enjoyable!
Written by Edith Shum and Rebecca Diggins