The past two months here in Australia have flown by and before we knew it, it was time for finals. While it was disappointing that finals meant all of our classes and excursions were coming to an end, it also meant our Directed Research (DR) projects would be beginning soon. After a quick and (mostly) painless final week we were free for the next five days. My group was off to the amazing beaches of Byron Bay and the Gold Coast for our five day break. The beach was a quick one minute walk across a road from our hostel, making spending a couple days on the beach top of my “To-Do List.” After the hustle and bustle the classes at the Center have provided us with, napping and reading on the beach all day was amazing.

But not all of us decided on having some lazy beach days; others decided that sea kayaking with dolphins was the way to go. Between walks on the beach into town and walking all the way to the lighthouse, we also saw jellyfish, pufferfish, and crabs. Walking to the lighthouse allowed those of us in Byron Bay to say we’ve been to the eastern most point of Australia! Once our time in Byron Bay was up, we headed back to the Gold Coast to finish up our break. Even more time was spent at beach and we managed to catch a wonderfully horrible movie at a movie theatre.

Soon our lazy beach days were up and we were headed back to the Center. After five days away, the drive up the Gillies Highway and on the access road felt like coming home. Right after returning to the Center we jumped into the start of our Directed Research projects. Mine will focus on the effect vines might have on habitat selection of Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos. Instead of classes, my days for the next couple of weeks revolve around vegetation collection for vines species during the day and spotlighting for tree-kangaroos at night. My project has even earned me the nickname “Vine Master.” I’m excited to continue working on my DR and seeing where it will go!

→ Tropical Rainforest Studies Semester Program in Australia