Planned JCU system outage 23 to 27 May 2024 impacting student and application portals.

Jaelen Myers (USA)

Why did you choose to study at James Cook University?

I first saw a listing for a PhD on a popular website that scientists use to publish papers or promote themselves. PhD opportunities will come up and I saw one at JCU, so I started looking into it and it looked like a fantastic school. It was the only school that I applied to, so when they offered me the scholarship and paired me with a supervisor, who seemed perfect for me, I just had to say yes. I had no doubt about it.

My supervisor is Distinguished Professor Marcus Sheaves who leads JCU’s Estuary and Coastal Wetland Ecology Research Group, and, JCU’s Marine Data Technology Hub. I had my mind set on undertaking a PhD and knew the challenge of moving to a different country would be amazing for me.

I am currently undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology with a focus on stingrays. The general aim of my thesis is that I am using aerial drones to look at special temporal distribution patterns of rays as well as their behaviours and this can tell us all kinds of interesting information about their habitat use, which habitats are important, and exactly what the rays are doing in these ecosystems. This research will tell us about their physical and biological impacts, functional roles, why they are important in an ecosystem, and why we should protect them and give them a priority for conversation purposes. A lot of information in science is missing about these rays and my work is helping to fill in some of the gaps.

What has been the highlight of your study experience at James Cook University so far?

One of my favourite things about being here at JCU is the feeling of it being limitless. There are so many people to meet, there’s so much diversity and there are so many activities. You walk out every day, and you never feel bored, like you are in a routine. At least I walk out every day and say to myself “What amazing thing am I going to do today? What will be different today from yesterday?” Townsville always offers the opportunity for each day to be different. There’s just so much to do, it’s so exciting. I’ve been here for three months, and I am still enjoying my time here.

The biggest challenge for me was proving to myself that I could thrive in a different country and now that I am here and I have done that, it’s like, what’s next? Nothing can stop me now from my next challenge. I’ve been able to make a lot of friends because as an international student I know there are so many people in the same position as me. Everyone here is s fantastic and friendly and I have joined a number of social groups, such as the JCU Dive Club, the Marine Society, Townsville Ultimate Frisbee Club, and I attended Zumba classes.

Jaelen Myers.

Jaelen Myers thrives on the endless opportunities available to her at JCU.

What are your career goals?

It’s a little hard to say exactly where I want to be, but I am exploring what my strengths are and what I could best bring to a workplace. This has given me the motivation to start looking into a job where I could do science communication, such as interacting with the public but also be able to do meaningful research. I want to find a position that will allow me to explore scientific questions that interest me but also bring them to the public and not just hide them behind the walls of academic journals. I’ve heard that organisations like Manta Trust do just this. They undertake all kinds of scientific research on manta rays but they also get the public involved and run dive trips. This is just an example of an organisation doing amazing work that I would be interested in. Although, I have no idea where the opportunity will be when I graduate but I am going to keep studying stingrays.

What piece of advice would you like to share with any international students considering James Cook University?

I think that people who come here, just like me, need to come with a very open mind and an adventurous spirit. Think of yourself that was a little fish that was in a little bowl and suddenly you are put into a much bigger tank. You have room to grow here. When you move to a different country you have to experiment, try different things. Don’t just do the same thing you were doing at home. This is your chance to branch out and do something new. Call home if you get homesick but don’t be sitting there missing home. This is too great of an opportunity to sit there wishing you were somewhere else. Make the most of it and let the little fish grow.