Get your hands dirty!
The Environmental Sciences area at Deakin University has a catch phrase of "Our Classrooms Have No Walls". Ultimately, we are saying that the educational experience we give our students goes beyond the traditional realm of a lecture theatre and goes out into the real world. It is critical to allow students to see the environment in the flesh, and truly feel part of it. We find students relate to the theory better when they return to the class because we are talking about things they have seen.
In their first year, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and Environmental Management students visit Cape Conran Coastal Park for 4 days to learn about parks management issues and wildlife conservation. Cape Conran is a great place to see parks and wildlife management in practice. This first year 'hands on' unit, is valued by all students. Students are exposed to many great aspects of the environment, and get hands on opportunities with small mammals including Long-nosed Potoroos and Bandicoots. Students also learn many useful techniques such as radio tracking, handling animals using GPS effectively.
In their second year, students have the opportunity to take part in a research methods field trip to the Grampians, where they carry out experiments they have designed. This unit is designed to help students learn the skills required to design and implement experiments, analyse research data, work as an effective part of a team, and learn how to manage a team. Marine Biology students in their second and third year study a range of marine environments, including rocky shores, mangroves and salt marshes, measure water quality using Deakin's collection of research and teaching boats and design and carry out their own projects.
Third year students studying in the Freshwater Biology and Management degree conduct a unit in freshwater field studies. Students are given a 'real world' experience and produce an example of their work that can be shown to prospective employers. Working in small groups, students plan their data collection and then go into the field. They analyse water quality samples in the laboratories and identify plants and animals. In the field, they record features such as depth, salinity and flow speeds and make observations of larger animals, such as water birds and fish.
In the third year of the Wildlife and Conservation Biology and Environmental Management courses fieldwork opportunities culminate with a field course to the Great Otways National Park for six days. This unit in Wildlife Field Studies teaches students how to design and implement a large scale wildlife survey. Students conduct small mammal trapping, spot light surveys, owl surveys, koala surveys and much much more. In class before the trip students conduct all the planning and organization. The real world skills learnt during this experience are easily transferred into the work environment once they leave University.