Renee Piccolo is a current PhD student at Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute and has recently had her first scientific journal article published in Nature Scientific Reports, covering her work on the location factors which influence land-based reptile research in Australia.
We spoke with Renee to discuss her path from wide-eyed Griffith undergraduate to her exciting future as a leading wildlife and environmental researcher.
I’ve always had a passion for wildlife and the natural environment. I took a particular interest in reptiles, which led me to pursue various volunteering and employment positions in the environmental industry, from education to consultancy. Despite gaining valuable experience I realised there was so much more I didn’t know about the natural environment, so I decided to undertake a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Ecology and Conservation Biology) at Griffith University.
During my degree, I began to realise my interests were changing and I wanted the work I did to have a big impact on management decisions and policies around wildlife and the environment.
“I completed an industry placement at an environmental consultancy which turned out to be extremely valuable – in showing me that I wasn’t interested in consultancy work!”
I then realised the inherent excitement of research. I decided to complete a Special Topic course in my third year which allowed me to work one-on-one with a supervisor and produce a mini-research topic. It involved a Systematic Quantitative Literature Review of ecological research relating to Australian terrestrial reptiles, which I went on to submit as a first author publication. To have my undergraduate work published was extremely rewarding.
After completing my bachelor’s degree, I went on to complete a year of honours research in ecology on the topic of domestic cats and their predatory behaviours on wildlife in urban environments. I achieved first-class honours for my thesis and was awarded the Griffith University Medal for Excellence.
After graduation I began work as a Research Assistant for the Australian Rivers Institute, working alongside the Department of Environment and Energy. More recently I have started a PhD in prioritisation and feasibility of coastal-marine restoration with a focus on modelling and spatial analysis. I am also privileged to be collaborating with CSIRO Coasts and Oceans department.
Overall, the most important aspect of my time at university was making connections and networking with industry professionals in areas that interested me, simply to figure out what path I wanted to take – like a process of elimination. In the long-term, my hope is to utilise all the experience I have gained over the years to positively influence management decisions and policy around wildlife and the natural environment.