As someone who has grown up surrounded by hills, beautiful views and lush native bush, I thought I knew what I was in for in terms of landscape going into this cadetship despite having spent only a few brief moments in the Australian Alps and barely at all in Summer. I anticipated the beauty, but driving up that endlessly winding road, although reminiscent of the one I grew up on, I realised I had not prepared for just how wondrously captivated I would become over the next five weeks as a cadet with the Research Centre for Applied Alpine Ecology.
The remarkable beauty of the alps added a sense of magic to my entire experience. From long days collecting data for fascinating projects, to shared meals at sunset with some of the most intriguing and quirky (in the best way) people I’ve ever met, to stomping around looking for very discreetly marked plots and weeding Hypochaeris. It was truly extraordinary and influential for me and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity.
I was inspired by every person I met, their passion, knowledge and love for what they do combined with their openness and desire to share that with anyone keen to listen created such a positive environment to learn in. I learnt so many things this summer that it wouldn’t be possible to include them all, but I think one of the most valuable things I learnt was to always ask questions, regardless of whether you’ve asked the same thing 20 times before… usually a bizarre species name. I also learnt the importance of being adaptable when a study design wasn’t suitable or wasn’t going to plan and how crucial a good data sheet can be. This I learnt the hard way, ruling page after page and trying to follow pages crammed with tiny numbers without getting lost.
Another incredible thing I learned was what it is really like to be a researcher, something that I have always been interested in but honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to do. This was really eye opening for me. I always thought that I would love it, and boy was I right. The interactions, intelligence, dedication and genuine fun I observed from this lifestyle was infectious. As a mature age student who swayed from course to course in the past and really struggled with knowing what I wanted to do, this cadetship brought me a sense of clarity and direction that I hadn’t experience before. Although as expected, there were times when I was thoroughly exhausted and even went a little crazy, I quickly realised that this was a quality I shared with my alpine community.
I worked on several different projects, most of which were part of long-term ecological research studies concerned with different aspects of how the alps are changing over time. Some of the main projects being surveys of snow-patches, significant wetlands, populations of invasive weeds and rare species. While data entry and collection are ongoing and analysis is yet to be done, I am enthralled to see what the data we collected tells about the processes happening in this environment, and to get back out there and do whatever I can to help protect this captivating place.
See you soon alps!
– Suzie Moss