Darwin High Student takes on the Earthwatch Student Challenge
Darwin High School Year 10 student Nuhansi Wijesinghe spent the mid-semester break participating in the Earthwatch Student Challenge. She shares her experience below.
By student Nuhansi Wijesinghe
As someone interested in science and passionate about environmental conservation and sustainability, I was quick to apply for this year’s Earthwatch Student Challenge. When I was selected as the only participant from the NT, I was overjoyed; I had just scored a seven day, all expenses paid, environmental project on Calperum Station by the Murray River in South Australia. So, on 15th April, I flew down. Little did I know I would have one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.
Pictured above: An echidna we spotted hiding amongst the bushes
Earthwatch advertised a new educational experience and delivered exactly that. Data was collated from our tree health surveys, where we assessed the condition of black box trees surrounding Calperum Station’s wetland watering sites and wildlife pit fall trapping, where we recorded predatory animals in burnt and unburnt dunes and swales, not only revealed interesting trends but added to a national scientific database, giving us a feel into ‘real’, impactful scientific work. However, to me, the Earthwatch project was more than just an educational experience.
Pictured above: Some emus in the distance
Calperum Station felt like real Australia: red dirt, eucalyptus trees and kangaroos and emus as far as the eye can see. Through it all, I found a new appreciation for trees, such as the black boxes, which grew next to water beds with three times the salt concentration of the ocean, and small reptiles and arachnids, which have adapted to survive the harsh arid conditions.
Pictured above: A legless lizard from one of the pit fall traps
And as amazing as the natural experience was the social experience. Not only did I get to meet and live next door to leading Australian ecologists and environmental scientists, I got to meet ten other young people from around the country with a passion for the environment. And each of the ten had their own personal quirks, like one takes pictures for Australian Geographic and another runs environmental programs for primary school children. It’s amazing how close you can get to such people in such a short space of time. I for one know that I have made lifelong friendships (and Facebook friendships) with many of these people.