This is the transcript for the video Environmental Sciences and Environmental Biology – Course Info

Welcome. It’s nice to meet you, if not in person, then at least online. Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation on whose lands our city campus now stands. I pay respect to elders both past and present, acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for this land. My name is Dr. Leigh Martin and I’m the program director for environmental science. I’ll be running through some information about this cause today. In this session, I’m going to give you an introduction to environmental science at UTS, discuss some of the reasons why you should study at UTS, give you some information about environmental science and what it means to be an environmental scientist, some information about the course itself, very importantly, the career opportunities that will be open to you as a UTS environmental science graduate and I’ll also be giving you some information on how to apply. So I guess the first question is why study science and maths at UTS? Well, by studying science and maths at UTS, you’ll be developing some real world skills and gain technical expertise in fields that are crucial in terms of contribution to society. You’ll learn from some of the best people in their fields, experts in science and maths, researchers with proven track records of making a positive contribution. We also have world class facilities here at UTS. We have specialised laboratories, including our super labs, a crime simulation lab and many, many more.

We’re also very well connected with the industry, ensuring that your degree will be relevant and maximise your employability. And we conduct world leading research that has genuine impact and makes a positive contribution. So what does it mean to be an environmental scientist? Well, for me personally, it means being able to contribute to things that are really important to me, things that I strongly believe in, and being able to make a major contribution to society because environmental science is the science of species and ecosystems. It’s about examining how species and ecosystems function together, but also how humans can influence the integrity of ecosystems and what that actually means for humanity as well. But we also get to learn about how to address the problems that we have caused. We learn how to assess environmental issues, protect ecosystems, remediate damage and manage ecosystems to preserve nature and maximise environmental benefits. So at UTS, we offer two environmental science degrees, one is in marine biology and the other is in environmental biology, in both those degrees, you’ll practice skills and concepts through a combination of theory and lectures, field experiences and laboratory experiences. What’s it like then? How do we, how do we go about teaching environmental science at UTS? Well, the first thing to note is that students are introduced to the latest findings in research by lecturers who are actively engaged in finding solutions to environmental problems.

So these include issues such as climate change, threatened species, hazardous contamination, pollution, wildfires and particular interest to me, invasive species and the impact that invasive species have on our native biodiversity. And this is done by a combination of in-person Face-To-Face lectures and online modules. Your experience at UTS will include laboratory training with developing hands on skills that employers expect and need you to have. Several years ago we conducted a review of employer’s requirements in environmental science graduates, and we’ve tailored our course offerings to ensure that we’re giving you the skills and the knowledge and the experiences that employers seek. And we do this via a combination of simulation classes, studies of animal biology, botanical experiments which are conducting greenhouse conditions. Also, you’ll learn about advanced microscopy imaging. You’ll learn how to conduct chemical testing for things like environmental contaminants, also how to conduct water and soil quality testing, and also learn about crucial issues in terms of plant pollination and how that is so crucial in terms of the functioning of ecosystems. All critical skills to enhance the protection of biodiversity and all critical skills that many employers seek. And you can do this via a variety of independent research projects in which you actually get to design your own experiments and investigate questions of interest to you. We also offer a really exciting opportunity to conduct field trips across Australia. These are excursions that are undertaken in your senior years and these have a particularly high value placed upon them for the opportunities they provide for you to put into practice what you’ve learned in the previous years and apply in the field.

Some of these subjects include things like stream and lake assessment, coral reef, ecosystems, wildlife ecology, fisheries resources. But there are many others. Many of our subjects include field trips. And that can include things such as, I said, coral reef ecosystems, where you get to experience great adventures, such as looking at the Great Barrier Reef and the amazing biodiversity that exists on the reef.

So a little bit of information for you about the course structure. In the first year of your degree, we’ll give you a really solid foundation in environmental science and science in general. The second year of your degree we’ll give you a comprehensive knowledge of ecology and ecological principles. And the third year gives you an opportunity to really refine your career paths, focus on the things that have been of most interest to you in the previous two years and really begin to specialise on those. Of course, there are also opportunities beyond that, beyond your undergraduate degree. These include postgraduate study options, such as an Honours degree, which is a one year research project where you actually conduct your own independent research under the supervision of a UTS academic. Also, Masters of Science, which can be done by research, coursework or a combination of both. And finally, the Doctor of Philosophy in which you conduct a several year long research project to become an expert in your field and get to earn the title of doctor. At UTS we use a trimester or balanced teaching session approach. There are 12 weeks in each session with a one week mid-session break in each of those sessions to give you a chance to catch your breath, have a bit of a break, or maybe catch up on some areas that you want to spend a bit more time on. We also offer some flexible opportunities for learning. We have opportunities for block mode subjects where you can tackle a subject in an intensive mode over several weeks and also there are online subjects. So this gives you the opportunity to balance your studies with work and commitments that you may also have.

So this would be a typical course study plan. The first year really setting those foundations in place with chemistry one, subject called the biosphere, statistical design analysis, principles of scientific practice by complexity, cell biology, genetics, physical aspects of nature and environmental chemistry. So that’s giving you a really solid foundation to build on in the next two years. As you can see here, the second year gives you an opportunity to begin to focus on ecological principles and a number of aspects of environmental science. And your third year gives you the opportunity to really focus on those issues that are and areas that are of interest to you, including the opportunity to choose four electives for your final year of study. And these electives can also include internship projects with of external organisations or internally with UTS supervisors. And it’s really important to remember the UTS is a world leader for environmental science, so we were rated in 2018 as having well above world standards for environmental sciences, including microbiology, plant biology, ecological adaptations and environmental science and management. And we were ranked last year as Australia’s number one young university and in the global top 150 universities.

OK, why become an environmental scientist? Well, I can tell you what motivates me as an environmental scientist, and that’s a passion for nature, a passion for the conservation of nature and the opportunity to contribute to the things which I think are really important to me, but consider what motivates you. There may be a number of areas that you’re particularly interested in. So, for instance, my passion, a lot of focus of my research, has been on invasive species, both invasive plants and invasive animals. So if we go back to, say, 1958 in Australia, we had serious problems with invasive species such as rabbits, such as prickly pear. And it’s because of work done by environmental scientists that we’ve been able to tackle some of those really serious environmental problems. And of course, continued challenges emerge, in invasive species and it’s environmental scientists that are forefront of finding ways to tackle those problems and develop solutions. So another thing that’s become very important in modern times is restoring entire ecosystems. So if you have a look at this first image here, this is a heavily degraded system. You can see the stream running through the middle of it has been channelised and most of the vegetation is gone. But let’s have a look at the difference between 1987 and 2010, hard to believe that this is the same landscape, but this is the sort of thing that environmental science has enabled us to do. By understanding how ecosystems work, we can look to restore degraded ecosystems and bring back nature into its prime.

Perhaps for you, your passion is in tackling greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. So let’s take a step back and look at progress that we’ve made. Where do we begin with energy generation? Well, we started with fossil fuels and coal. Coal because it was readily available, it’s a very rich source of energy and we’ve developed very efficient techniques for harvesting coal and exploiting its energy. If we go back to, say, 1954, we didn’t have quite the same opportunities for alternatives to coal as we have today. So for instance, in 1954, solar panels would generate 0.1 watts per meter squared off panel. So extremely inefficient, but it was a start, it was the development of the technology. Over the ensuing decade, environmental scientists, physicists, engineers have worked to increase the efficiency of solar panels. To the point where today solar panels can generate 435 watts per panel. So that is a massive increase in the efficiency of solar panels to the point where now solar is a viable, cheap alternative to fossil fuels.

Or perhaps your interests lie in marine conservation, for instance, the protection of whales. Let’s have a look at an example that science is made to the contribution of whales with a focus on the grey whale. Between the 1850s and 1900s, gray whales were hunted to the edge of extinction, particularly by floating factory whaling. So whaling ships, which would process the whales on board. So by 1937, gray whales were given partial protection, and this is because scientists had been able to identify that the species had been exploited to the point where it was at the risk of becoming extinct. And in 1947, gray whales were given full protection by the International Whaling Commission. The result of this has been that since 1947, the Eastern Northern Pacific gray whale has made an incredible recovery. And they’re now abundant their ocean range, with a population of about twenty thousand, which is considered to be close to their original population. And again, it’s environmental science that allowed the world to recognise that harvesting of gray whales was unsustainable and that if allowed to continue, it would drive the species to extinction.

So one of the things that’s particularly rewarding about being an environmental scientist is finding solutions to environmental problems so that maybe, for instance, the provision of nest boxes for mammals which have lost the availability of the tree hollows that they need to live in and to reproduce. One of our academics here at UTS is doing world leading research on helping northern quolls become resilient to the effects of cane toad invasion across the top end of Australia. And it can include solutions to problems such as dams producing obstructions to fish migrations. So here’s an example, fish ladders. Well, dams provide a significant impediment to fish migration, this particular issue for fish that need to migrate between seawater and freshwater so dams can actually cut off a significant part of the habitat. Fish ladders provide a way for fish to overcome these barriers. But if you look at this image here, I can tell you that this is not a fish ladder from Australia. This is a fish ladder designed to allow salmon to pass over a dam wall. And we’ve probably all seen the classic images of salmon leaping up waterfalls. This type of fish ladder won’t work in Australia. What we’ve learnt because of the the work of environmental scientists and fisheries biologists is that our native fish need a completely different design of fish ladder. And so by adopting new designs, rather than these Northern Hemisphere solutions, we’ve now been able to solve the problem of a lot of our native fish being unable to migrate throughout the river systems. Or your interest may be in botany, coral, reef systems, energy efficiencies, all of these opportunities are available to you to make a valuable contribution.

And another thing that’s really important to bear in mind, what we do matters, people care about what we do and the things that we’re working to make contributions to it. As an example of that, 75% of Australians have said they would become upset if a bird species became extinct. 74% say that we have a moral obligation to protect threatened birds. And 47% said that the needs of threatened species can come ahead of people so as you can see what we do as environmental scientists is important to society.

OK, that’s all very good and well, but you’re probably asking I’d love to make a contribution in this, but how can I do that once I have my degree? After all, you’re going to need to pay for food and rent and mortgages. You’re going to need to have a career. Well, I’m happy to tell you that being an environmental scientist opens the door to a whole range of career types. So these can include things such as conservation officers and park rangers, environmental consultants, being research scientists working in universities, government organisations such as the CSIRO, private industries, you might choose to become a botanist or you may even choose to work in environmental law and policy. Here at UTS, we offer a double degree in both environmental law and environmental science. You might want to work in community education by becoming a communication and marketing officer. You may seek to become a land and coastal management planning person or a marine biologist or a landscape designer or an architect. And again, this is where we offer a double degree where you can focus on that field. You also may wish to become involved in advocacy and outreach services. Before I came to UTS, I worked for many years as an environmental advocate for a non-government organisation. You may also become someone who is an environmental auditor or things such as a zoo keeper, animal ecologist. The list goes on and on. And it’s also important to note that demand for what we do has grown strongly in recent years and is projected to continue to grow because what we do matters and the demand for what we do is going to continue to matter. So there’s strong growth projected over the next five years and up to 2023. So these job openings are coming from both new jobs being created in new industries, new demand for environmental protection and remediation, as well as turnover’s for people who are already in the field reaching the end of their careers and retiring. I’m also happy to report that environmental scientists typically earn, on average, more than the overall average income in Australia.

So you might be asking yourself, this is all very great, but do I have what it takes to be an environmental scientist and to study environmental science at UTS. Well, ask yourself the question, are you interested in any of the following? Are you interested in geography, biology, chemistry? Do you like plants and animals? Do you enjoy solving problems? Do you like traveling and working outside? Do you enjoy discovering new things? Research, investigation? And do you care about the future of the environment and the future of our communities? If you can answer yes to those questions, then you absolutely have what it takes to become an environmental scientist and to succeed in the Environmental Science degree here at UTS. Thanks. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you this evening. I hope you found this video helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I hope to see you at UTS next year.