Ms Anne Eichholtzer

Field: Conservation Science

Making a career switch from cosmetics to biodiversity conservation, one of Deakin’s PhD candidates is working with new technologies to improve ecological knowledge about wildlife and engage society with nature.

We sat down with Anne to talk about her Higher Degree by Research (HDR) journey.

At Deakin, I was given the freedom to engage in an interdisciplinary project across natural sciences, machine learning and social sciences.

Anne's HDR Journey

Why did you choose to study a PhD at Deakin?

Studying at Deakin has offered me the opportunity to undertake a highly original and interdisciplinary project: my PhD allows me to collaborate across five different faculties (with ten supervisors!) and work on Australian wildlife on the other side of the world.

What is your PhD research project about?

My PhD research project is testing a new way to monitor reptiles and amphibians using novel camera technology and machine learning. With the help of citizen scientists, we are evaluating how the project benefits our ecological knowledge and its impact on how participants value nature. A key idea behind this project is to find new ways to engage society with nature, especially people who don’t already have a special interest in biodiversity.

What have you achieved that you never thought possible before beginning your PhD?

When considering PhDs, I usually found they were too specific. At Deakin, I was given the freedom to engage in an interdisciplinary project across natural sciences, machine learning and social sciences. My PhD has allowed me to re-orientate my career with a project that is aligned to my values and that I feel can genuinely have a positive impact on biodiversity conservation.

See what Anne's working on

How is your PhD helping you make an impact on society?

In today’s society there is much concern about negative impacts of human activity on biodiversity and natural ecosystems. To effectively respond, we need up-to-date knowledge on biodiversity and solid engagement of the general public towards biodiversity. My PhD is investigating both of the above through the lens of citizen science. By collaborating with members of the community, citizen science can help contribute to research and ecological knowledge while also engaging a wider audience with nature.

How has Deakin supported you to achieve your goals?

My pathway to work on a PhD was unconventional. Previously, I worked within the cosmetics industry, which isn’t the traditional background for someone interested in biodiversity conservation. My supervisor, Professor Don Driscoll, trusted my skills and motivations despite me not having direct work experience related to biodiversity.

I love my supervisor’s flexibility when managing my PhD project. This experience has helped me understand that your supervisor is there to provide project guidance, but at the end of the day it is your project. It has allowed me to build project management skills, from organising a large team of volunteers to liaising with stakeholders across academia, government and NGOs. There is always something new to learn!

What are your future career ambitions? How has your PhD helped you realise these?

This PhD opens so many different doors for my future. I am acquiring many transferable skills – from global understandings and adaptability to data analysis – that can be applied virtually anywhere.

In the future, I hope to keep working in the biodiversity field; more specifically, on how to engage people towards biodiversity and pro-environmental behaviours.

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