Small Pond, Big Ideas: A Biology Capstone Story

Joshua Whiley is in his final year of a Bachelor of Science studying a double major in Marine Biology and Wildlife Biology. We had a chat to Josh about what he’s been up to in his studies and how he has adapted to the changes in his studies that have come from COVID-19 restrictions. 


What sparked your original interest in Marine and Wildlife Biology?  

I spent my childhood camping, fishing, and adventuring throughout Queensland. I could not get enough of it and I still can’t. A love for nature and a childlike curiosity of the world led me to be becoming heavily interested in biology from a young age, which has continued to grow and pushed me to choose a Bachelor of Science 


What is your biggest achievement so far?

While it probably sounds like a bit of a cliché, my biggest achievement was undertaking my Bachelor of Science itself. I had to leave the warm, cosy bubble of my hometown and family home to pursue my passion and I haven’t regretted it a day since I did.  


What are you currently researching in your capstone project?

In my capstone project, I’m currently researching how large of a driver urbanisation is on the abundance and diversity of aquatic macroinvertebrates in the freshwater systems across the Gold Coast.   

For example, we recently performed a survey in a pond near the Gold Coast campus. This pond hasn’t received flow in a fair while so isn’t in the best condition, due to this we found a number of species of aquatic macroinvertebrates with low sensitivities such as shrimp and damselfly larvae.  


Have you had any challenges as a student and how have you overcome them? Has COVID-19 been an issue doing fieldwork?

Luckily, I’ve had it easy throughout my degree with little challenges. Earlier this year, however, I was in a multi-car crash where I was not at-fault, resulting in my car being totalled and a 2month long insurance battle. Throughout this time, I was extremely stressed and was struggling with my uni work. Thankfully, however, my lecturers were extremely understanding and did everything within their power to help and within no-time I was able to get back on top of everything.  

COVID-19 has really turned the world upside down and unfortunately fieldwork was not spared, COVID led to the unfortunate cancellation of the capstone trip to Heron Island. Thankfully, Griffith, and my supervisor, Dr Clare Morrison, were quick to work around COVID restrictions and provide an alternate topic that still allowed my group and I to do fieldwork locally. This is something I’m extremely grateful for.  



What do you hope to do at the end of your degree?

I’m now in the final trimester of my degree and am very excited to be graduating this year. 

Throughout my degree I have helped with several projects with great supervisors who have constantly spoken highly about honours programs. Because of this, I hope to move onto an honours program focusing in the areas of estuarine ecology or freshwater stream ecology.  


Do you have any advice to prospective students?

My advice to people considering this path would be to be to take the leap and do it. It’s a great program with more pathways and possible careers than you’ve probably thought possible.  

To those just beginning their degree, my advice would be to go out and look for opportunities to work on projects. Whether they are run by honours or PhD students, you will meet highly knowledgeable people in your field, gain experience and find out exactly what interests you the most.  

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