Goulburn Valley students learn about careers in science

44 Year 11 and 12 students explored how science is applied to benefit agriculture, veterinary medicine and land management at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus on Tuesday 26 February.

The students, who came from schools in the Goulburn Valley and North East Victoria, learned from experts in precision agriculture, natural resource management, sustainable irrigation and animal welfare. Most had expressed an interest studying scientific fields at University.

Dookie Professor in Residence Timothy Reeves said the focus of the day was providing them with real world examples of how industry practitioners apply science to benefit their clients and regions.

Professor in Residence Timothy Reeves discusses global challenges and opportunities in food security
Professor in residence Timothy Reeves discusses global challenges and opportunities in food security

He said science higher education opens a wide range of career opportunities, particularly in agriculture and associated industries.

“Agriculture is worth around $60 billion at the farm-gate and was Australia’s fastest growing industry in 2017, with the highest productivity of all Australian sectors,” he said.

“It has been estimated that there are three to four jobs available for each university graduate in agriculture, so it’s important for students with an interest in science to understand the opportunities that further education opens for them.”

Professor Reeves, whose agricultural career has included leading the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), opened the day with a presentation on the “big picture” of global and national agriculture, food and nutritional security and the role of science in these. Four industry practitioners presented case studies for discussion by students:

  • Michael Heyneman (Elders Australia): Remote sensing for crop and pasture management
  • Helen Murdoch (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority): Using science for natural resources management
  • Dr Bruce Gill (Agriculture Victoria Tatura Research Centre): 3D groundwater visualisation for irrigation and sustainable water use
  • Dr Kate Hazeldene (Kate Hazeldene Veterinary Services): Using science for animal health and welfare.

Students saw live demonstrations of drones for field research management by Darcy Warren, research agronomist at the Foundation for Arable Research Australia, and visited the University of Melbourne’s robotic dairy to learn how its advanced systems allow dairy coordinator Damien Finnigan and researchers to electronically monitor each cow’s health and productivity.

See how the Dookie campus robotic dairy allows cows to determine when they are milked and automatically directs them to pastures for optimal nutrition.

The day was very well-received by students and teachers, with 85 per cent of students saying that the day exceeded their expectations and all giving positive feedback about the day.

Read more via the Shepparton News and the Shepparton Adviser.

Banner image: Cathedral College Wangaratta students at Dookie following a demonstration of drone-based sensor technology used in agricultural research. Story and photos by Stuart Winthrope.