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Written By

Bianca de Loryn


College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

2 November 2020

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From the Great Barrier Reef to the Galapagos Islands

What’s it like to study marine science? Marissa Hutchings explains what it was like getting her hands wet on Orpheus Island, South Australia and the Galapagos Islands.

Marissa Hutchings’ passion is marine science.I have always been fascinated by the inhabitants, energy, vastness and mystery of the ocean,” she says. “A career in marine science encompasses all of these things and more. For example, biological organisms, chemical properties, physical forces or geological structures.”

Marissa Hutchings is originally from South Australia, but she moved to Townsville to study a Bachelor of Marine Science. This was followed by a Bachelor of Science (Honours in Marine Biology). Her typical day as a marine science student involves around two or three lectures, a tutorial and a practical. “Practicals were a particular highlight, with very hands-on and interesting activities,” she says.

Marine science can also be a social experience. “Sometimes I would have a couple of hours dedicated to volunteering for one of JCU's many research projects,” Marissa says.

The field trips have been the highlights of studying marine science for Marissa. “I attended four field trips to Orpheus Island, but have friends who attended up to six,” she says. “It's great to get out on the reef and see the things you have learnt about in the classroom.” Orpheus Island is a national park island north of Townsville and home to a JCU research station.

As an experienced scuba diver, the field trip to South America was a personal dream for the JCU student. “My trip to the Galapagos Islands has to be hands down my biggest highlight,” Marissa says. “Think diving with schools of hammerhead sharks and sea lions!”

Diving with great white sharks in South Australia

Marissa did her professional placement in her home state of South Australia with Adventure Bay Charters. The company allows tourists to swim with Australian sea lions and dive with great white sharks. “I found this experience incredibly rewarding. It gave me real-life insight into the eco-tourism industry, and I even got offered a job out of it,” she says.

However, she did not accept their job offer. Instead, she returned to Townsville to start her Honours. “But I certainly now have great relations with Adventure Bay Charters. I will likely pick up some work there when I go back home for the summer holidays.”

A dream job: Working with whales and sea lions

Looking into the future, Marissa says her dream job would be a field-based marine megafauna research position. “I am particularly interested in whales, sea lions and sharks,” she says. “I would love to work alongside these magnificent animals in their natural habitat. Also, I would like to educate others about their conservation.”

Marissa Hutchings
Divers with sealions

Hard work pays off

For people who interested in studying marine science, Marissa has some advice.

“A passion for all things marine and a positive attitude for learning will take you a long way,” she says. “Subjects taken in high school such as biology, chemistry and maths can make the first year a little less daunting.”

She says that even for those who have different backgrounds but want to go into marine science preparatory classes and a little hard work can help. And the hard work will be well rewarded, once the field trips are on the agenda.

Discover JCU Marine Science

Access a unique tropical learning environment with research stations, state-of-the-art laboratories and the Great Barrier Reef