By Hanna Shrubshall
Hanna Shrubshall is a second year Bachelor of Science student studying a double major in marine and wildlife biology at Griffith’s Gold Coast Campus. As part of her marine science studies, Hanna is enrolled in the Marine Megafauna: Sentinels of the Sea course. This semester, Associate Professor Susan Bengston Nash worked hard to ensure that the all-time favourite whale research field trip with Griffith’s partner Sea World remained on offer, despite the added challenges of COVID-19.
“The idea of exploring the way in which species interact with their natural habitat, in an environment that encompasses 71% of the Earth’s surface is something quite astounding to me.”
A passion for marine and wildlife biology
There many factors in my life that urged me to study in the fields of marine and wildlife biology, but the main thing that pushed me over the edge was a trip I did to Indonesia. I spent two weeks in the Indonesian jungle and on a marine site where we were completing transects both on land in the water. This trip is what sparked my interest in marine studies, and I have never looked back! To say that I am passionate about my current studies and future endeavours would be an understatement. The idea of exploring the way in which species interact with their natural habitat, in an environment that encompasses 71% of the Earth’s surface is something quite astounding to me.
All aboard the Sea World research vessel
I recently went on a whale watching field trip for my Marine Megafauna: Sentinels of the Sea class. I can honestly and openly say that this was one of the greatest experiences I have had at university so far. The whale trip gave me the opportunity to finally meet with members of my class that I have been conversing with for weeks online. Not only did the trip allow me to connect with my classmates on a deeper level, I was able to immerse myself further in the subject and apply the knowledge I have gained through online learning in a practical environment. By the end of the trip I had learnt how to identify a whale by looking for specific markings on the dorsal fin and by the markings and shape of the whale’s fluke (tail).
“The whale watching field trip has made my future marine research ambitions become a reality, I hope to one day work globally on data collation and research on marine sentinels.”
Marine Megafauna is without a doubt one of my favourite classes I have completed so far in my degree. The course gets into the nitty gritty stuff; you get to focus on marine species and learn how the environment and climate change is impacting marine sentinels. Additionally, we got the opportunity to learn about the programs that have been put in place to aid in the research and conservation of humpback and baleen whales in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. We have learnt about marine sentinels, environmental pollutants, Arctic and Antarctic climate change and of course we have gained a fair bit of knowledge on whales. Overall, this course has provided me with a greater understanding of the sea and its inhabitants, and I can definitely say that this course has enabled me to pursue my passion for marine studies.