A Charles Sturt University environmental science graduate has been awarded a University Medal for her outstanding academic achievements. She hopes to contribute to environmental research to improve our understanding and management of Australia’s unique species and spectacular ecosystems.
Ms Megan Moppett (pictured) graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Ecological Conservation) in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences when her award was conferred with more than 3,200 Charles Sturt graduates on Friday 3 December. The University Medal was awarded to only 32 December graduates.
Megan lives on a farming property south of Bathurst NSW, and was an online student enrolled through Charles Sturt in Albury-Wodonga.
She said from early childhood her interests always revolved around nature, informing her parents at a young age that she wanted to be a national park ranger.
“My love of plants, animals and the environment have persisted throughout my life as I grew up on a farm and spent much of my time in the bush,” she said.
“After leaving school, I worked for a number of years in agriculture, science and horticulture, however I always felt my real calling was in ecology and conservation so it was only natural for me to study for an environmental science degree.
“I enrolled in this course as a mature-age student, challenging myself to finally realise my dream, which had been bubbling away in the background for many years.”
Megan said being awarded a University Medal was certainly a welcome surprise.
“I am honoured to receive this acknowledgement of my hard work and commitment to my studies,” she said.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to all of my lecturers, course directors and the support staff at Charles Sturt University who have helped me along the way, as well as my family and friends who have offered support and encouragement, and have been very understanding of my occasional long absences while I had my head stuck in the books.”
Like many students over the last few years, a large portion of Megan’s studies were undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a distance education student, this meant that a number of her residential schools were cancelled or postponed.
“The University did an excellent job of offering flexible options, including creating online residential school experiences,” Megan said.
“However, the lack of face-to-face contact was challenging, and I struggled at times with anxiety about assessments, and motivation.
“In managing this, I drew on reserves of determination and grit that I previously didn’t know I had, and it was also imperative for me to initiate regular contact with my lecturers, who were all very supportive and understanding.
“To increase my motivation, I tried to maintain a balanced lifestyle, walked in the bush every day to remind myself of why I was doing this, and also got involved in a number of citizen science projects such as Hoot Detective, iNaturalist, and FrogID.”
Megan said she is keenly looking forward to attending her graduation ceremony next year and celebrating her achievements with family and friends.
“Having the opportunity to share this special time with my family, lecturers and fellow students will be an important rite of passage, a chance to appreciate memories and friendships, and marks the beginning of new adventures,” she said.
After some well-earned time off over summer to catch up with friends and family, Megan intends to start a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in 2022.
Megan said she would like to contribute to environmental research and help to improve our understanding and management of the unique and spectacular species and ecosystems of Australia.
During the final semester of her degree, Megan was offered a position as a technical officer with the Applied Ecology Unit at Charles Sturt University in Orange, assisting with a research project investigating biodiversity in vineyards.
“This experience has confirmed my intention to pursue a career in research in my specialisation, ecological conservation,” she said.
“My Honours project will be comparing different kinds of nest boxes, which are often used to supplement natural tree hollows for wildlife.
“I hope to determine which types are preferred by different kinds of animals, and which factors have the most influence on conditions inside.
“With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, working out what sort of structures and situations provide the best homes for native wildlife will become increasingly important, and I’m very excited to be involved in this research area.”
Megan’s advice for prospective students considering tertiary study?
“University study is a big commitment and may seem a little daunting or overwhelming at first,” she said.
“It does require a lot of hard work, and some sacrifice, however, for me, the benefits gained far outweighed the challenges.
“Apart from gaining industry skills, knowledge and experience, pursuing higher education has increased my self-confidence and resilience, revealed hidden talents, and inspired me to pursue the things I am passionate about.
“Most important, is that you enjoy the learning process ─ work hard, but have fun ─ look after your health and wellbeing, and make time for nurturing connections with others and important relationships.”