Focused on an environmental future

Marcella Dindillo working on site

Supplied by Marcella Dindillo

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Written By

Tianna Killoran


College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

7 April 2022

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Hard work and perseverance

From Papua New Guinea to Australia, JCU Environmental Science graduate Marcella Dindillo says hard work and curiosity have been the keys to her success. After finding a passion for environmental sciences and landing her dream job, Marcella is keeping up the pace.

For part of her life, Marcella grew up in Papua New Guinea where she completed Year 1 to 6 at her mother’s local village school. In 2013, she moved to Australia.

“Although I had been in Year 6 in Papua New Guinea, when I came to Australia I was placed in Year 9 based on my age, so I essentially skipped two grades at school,” she says.

With both Papua New Guinean and Indigenous Australian heritage, Marcella says it took time for her to settle in and keep up with school. “The whole culture shock of moving to Australia was a lot, but it was also tricky skipping grades,” she says. “I found that I had missed little things from the grades I had skipped, such as some basic math and other small lessons.”

“So, when I moved to Townsville and started university at JCU, it was a struggle because I had to overcome some of these things I had missed in my schooling. I missed some of the foundations of high school that you need for university, and I had to work hard to keep up,” Marcella says.

“At the time, the Bachelor of Environmental Practice (now the Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management) was a relatively new degree at JCU. I had initially been interested in doing marine science, but I saw that environmental practice was something new and exciting, so I decided to try that out,” she says.

Majoring in land and water management, Marcella says that perseverance and hard work underpinned all of her studies. “Basically, I had to work twice as hard as everyone else, and that’s just what I did. There’s not really any short cut or anything; it’s just a lot of hard work,” she says.

Marcella’s work ethic placed her ahead in both her studies and her career, where she now works at GHD, a professional services company with a vision to ensure sustainable water, energy and urbanisation projects for generations to come. “For me with English as a second language, reading and speaking things in English is easy, but writing in English can be challenging. I always do a little bit of extra work at home or during lunch. I just have to look over things or read through everything again to thoroughly understand.”

JCU Bachelor of Environmental Practice graduate Marcella Dindillo smiling wearing her JCU graduation gown and cap.
Clusters of plants protected with a stake and plastic to establish plants in a sandy environment to prevent erosion.

Picking up the pace with Environmental Science and Management

Marcella says that after she saw an internship opportunity listed on JCU’s CareerHub, she had her sights set on working with GHD as an environmental scientist.

So, she decided to go for it, and in July 2021 Marcella started her first internship. “During my third year of university I joined CareerTrackers and did an internship with GHD. This involved four weeks of internship with them, mostly doing field work and wrapping my head around the internal systems and structure,” she says.

It was the chance to do hands-on field work that Marcella says grew her enthusiasm for practical environmental management and monitoring work. “It was that experience of being out in the field that really introduced me to what I wanted to do,” she says.

After her four weeks were done, Marcella wasn’t quite finished with GHD and decided to come back for more: “I ended up returning to do another internship with them for six weeks during the summer,” she says.

Even before all of her results had been finalised for graduation, Marcella’s commitment and hard work secured her a job. “In my final week of summer internship, GHD offered me a graduate position with them in North Queensland. It was a really great opportunity and I really wanted to work with them specifically.”

The programs Marcella joined — including CareerTrackers and her graduate program — provided a clear path for her professional and career development, supporting her every step of the way. “With English as my second language and being from a whole different cultural background, GHD has supported me really well with their inclusion and diversity program.”

Goal setting and skill development were a big part of Marcella’s progression within the program. “I started off doing field work and then slowly started getting exposed to different documentation including proposals, environmental agreement (EA) amendments and applications, and then eventually reporting field work results with supervision from senior environmental scientists and planners,” she says.

“As a requirement for the end of my internship within the CareerTrackers program, I had to do a presentation for my colleagues, team leader and business leader, as well as my CareerTrackers supervisor. The presentation was a chance for me to highlight any challenges, lessons learned, achievements and my future goals.

“At the end of my first internship I set myself a number of goals, including personal ones such as getting a license and a car, but also things like graduating from my degree and getting a full-time job. These goals motivated me to put in the time and effort so that I could look back on my achievements at the end of my next internship,” Marcella say. “By the end of the second internship, I had achieved every single one of my goals.”

A Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management gives students the opportunity to jump into hands-on field work.

Monitoring air, soil, water and noise

From her CareerTrackers internships in 2021 through to her graduate program in 2022, Marcella was set up for success in her career as an environmental scientist. “I got in there and I was thrown straight into working in the field across a diverse range of projects. We have so many different projects at GHD going on at any one time and I was keen to get hands-on.”

Marcella says the highlight for her has been the variety of field work she’s been able to do. “I am currently involved in a lot of contamination field work, so we’re often doing soil and water sampling for many different clients and projects,” she says.

Sometimes travel is also part of Marcella’s work as a graduate. “Last month I did a trip to Hughenden to do soil and water sampling. So, that was a pretty cool experience for me and one of my biggest field trips so far.”

“For environmental science graduates at GHD there’s so many different fields that we get to work in. There’s lots of hands-on experience out in the field. I’ve done everything from revegetation monitoring, air quality and noise monitoring, and also contamination field work.”

JCU Bachelor of Environmental Practice Alumni, Marcella Dindillo

Marcella may have already smashed all of the goals she set during her CareerTrackers internship, but she still has more she wants to achieve. “In the future, I really want to focus on working on land and water contamination and doing more field work in that area so I can develop more expertise. I’d also like to work on developing my report writing skills, which is a large part of my graduate program,” she says.

Commitment and hard work underpin Marcella’s approach to environmental science. “The main goal that I live by is to always be curious, open-minded, and just to give everything a go and absorb as much as I can.”

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