The students returned to the Centre full of joy and sunshine after their mid-semester break. Some spent some time on liveaboard vessels, snorkeling and diving the Great Barrier Reef, while others took road trips through other parts of Queensland. We all reconvened with stories and laughter, and started our last full week together before Directed Research projects begin.

The students spent two days anxiously awaiting the results of their bids for their research projects. Students chose between working on ecology research studying tree kangaroos and yellow-bellied gliders, natural resource management research investigating issues of primary and secondary succession in the rainforest, and working on the socio-economic research investigating the future of tourism in Queensland. The students were very excited with the prospect of their topics, and their enthusiasm is mounting as we get closer to beginning our research.

Even with all of the excitement of Directed Research, school kept on as usual this week, if learning here can ever be described as “usual”. The students enjoyed three guest lectures this week; Christine Doan, of the Atherton Chamber of Commerce, talked about the history of conservation on the Tablelands, and encouraged the students to remember that even small change and small efforts in conservation and environmentalism still make a difference. The students subsequently toured her property and see the re-vegetation efforts she and her colleagues have carried out. The following day, the students met with Keith Smith, of the Queensland Department of the Environment and Heritage Protection, to discuss private and public land, and the conservation efforts in both places.

The most exciting lecture for the students, however, occurred Wednesday afternoon. While our students anxiously awaited the national election results, we took a respite from the internet and the news and met Margrit, an animal caretaker. She fosters wallabies, pademelons, and tree kangaroos when they are injured or orphaned. For many of the students, this field trip and these animals were the reason they chose to study here; seeing tree kangaroos up close was one of their most exciting experiences so far. While Margrit is successful in releasing most of her orphans, she continues to take care of Dorothy, who has gone blind as a result of stress in the wild. The students were able to feed and pet Dorothy, which was an amazing experience for them.

In between these final exciting experiences together, the students have been dutifully studying for their impending exams, and taking study breaks together. Volleyball, ever a welcome distraction, has also been much enjoyed as the weather has slowly warmed and as students take much-needed breaks from studying.

This is an idyllic time in the semester; classwork is winding down, the weather is warming, and the students are excited to turn the page and start a new chapter in their experience here. Soon, they will be split up into their research groups. For now, however, they are enjoying their time together, whether it be serious or in fun.