Student Challenge - Bat camper shares her experiences
Along with 11 other high school students over the summer holidays, Stevie Cosentino tackled the Earthwatch Student Challenge last month by assisting scientists in conducting research on Melbourne’s Microbats. The program offers 16-17 year old high school students a chance to participate in a one-week student only scientific research expedition. Students like Stevie are able to live and work alongside leading research scientists receiving first-hand experience in the field and a taste of life as a real scientist.
Voice of volunteer: Stevie Cosentino
On the 15th of January 2011, I boarded a plane to Melbourne. I was met by the busyness of Melbourne’s airport. Amongst the crowds, at the bottom of the escalators I saw two fellow Earthwatch members, each of us wearing our Earthwatch shirts to be easily recognised. We introduced ourselves and got into the car where we drove to Trinity College. Here, we would be spending the next week living like University students, an experience in itself. As I sat in the car with these two people, I had no idea that I would learn so much from them, nor how I would come to appreciate them for their significant contributions to the team.
It was at the college we met with the rest of the team and our Research Assistant. As we sat at the table under the tree, we were told what lies ahead in the coming week. Trapping, measuring, collecting Microbat faeces, attaching transmitters, collecting insects, radio tracking. These are all the things that lay ahead of us, all the things we were able to accomplish. I will not go into detail about how we set up traps nor how we measured the Microbats, for I believe that is something everyone should find out for themselves. To really understand the impact that Earthwatch is having not only on the environment but also the positive influence it is having on youth, you need not look further than our Earthwatch Student Challenge Team.
To write that the expedition was easy would be a lie. To be honest, before you go on an Earthwatch expedition you should be aware of the work and challenges that lie ahead of you; but that’s exactly why you should do it. Earthwatch is unlike any program I have ever been on. It doesn’t “sugar coat” what working as a scientist is like. It gives you a true representation of what it is like to carry out research and field work, what it's like to actually collect and analyse data, and what it's like to experience both the success and failures in the field. Earthwatch also uses the data you as a participant collect, which is fantastic as it means you know that by doing your little bit, by contributing some of your time, you alone have made a difference.
Trapping, measuring, collecting Microbat faeces, attaching transmitters, collecting insects, radio tracking, these are all the things my Earthwatch group and I were able to accomplish in the brief seven days we were in Melbourne. I believe this expedition is not only beneficial to the environment, in terms of greater understanding, protection and education; but also beneficial to myself, and my future career. This expedition helped me greatly in regards to finding out what “real” science is like, and what it is like for a “real” scientist on a day-to-day basis.
Before coming on the Earthwatch expedition I honestly had no idea what to expect having never participated in anything similar before. However, it is now fair to say should I ever go on another expedition similar to Earthwatch, I will have high standards, of which I have developed from participating in the Earthwatch Student Challenge.
I plan to use my newly formed knowledge to promote the importance of every organism in our ecosystem, starting within my family, then edging further to my school, local groups then eventually community. I am really going to encourage as many year 10 and 11 students as possible to apply, so they too can gain the experience and skills that I learnt.
If the Ian Potter foundation should read this I would just like to say
thank you. Without your financial support I would never have been able
to participate in this incredible experience. If you have ever looked
to see the true impact as to what your funding is helping to achieve
you need not look further than my Earthwatch team.
Back row from left to right: Lily Zhuang-Griffin, Caitriona Fay (Ian Potter Foundation), Lisa Godinho (Earthwatch Scientist), Vivek Adhikari, Nicholas Burridge, Rodney van der Ree
(lead Earthwatch Scientist), Janet Hirst (Ian Potter Foundation), Caroline Bayer (Earthwatch Student Challenge Program Manager)
Front row from left to right: Stevie Cosentino, Kathy Nguyen, Rachel Maitland (Earthwatch Team Leader), Sasha Clarke.