Who are you? What is your background? What have you been doing before this degree?
My name is Amanda Breidahl. I have recently completed a Masters of Conservation Medicine through the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Murdoch University. This was a distance learning degree, which involved a percentage of online subjects, a percentage of practical field work and a research component. I studied it part time, beginning in 2010 and finishing in 2012.
I grew up in suburban Melbourne. When I finished school I went straight to University. I studied Bachelor of Veterinary Science because I had all my life wanted to be a veterinarian.
I graduated from Veterinary Science in 1979 and have been working both full and part time as a veterinarian ever since, with some time off having my family.
I had become increasingly interested in environmental issues and declining biodiversity, especially Australian mammals and was looking for a change of career path so thought this course would give me a good, scientific understanding of issues facing threatened fauna.
What made you decide to study a postgrad degree?
One of the drivers behind deciding to take on this degree was that I felt I had experienced a lot of private veterinary practice and I wanted to do and learn something different to finish off my working life. I wanted to learn more about conservation and wildlife health.
I also considered other courses, but this was the only on-line course available in Australia at the time. I hoped that by doing this course, it would open up more opportunities for me to work with wildlife or in conservation.
I also was very interested in doing the practical field work, which I completed as three months experience working as a veterinarian at Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of Zoos Victoria. This was a wonderful opportunity, where I learnt a lot.
Tell us about your experiences studying your degree at your institution?
I enjoyed nearly every subject… there were a few great core subjects which gave a good overview of the principles of conservation and the issues leading to loss of biodiversity worldwide. I was very interested to learn that the greatest loss of biodiversity is occurring in areas where wildlife are living close to people in extreme poverty.
The course introduced me to the concept of One Health and the importance of the intersection of every aspect of environment and humans and wildlife.
There was a good range of other subjects to choose from.
I did not enjoy statistics so much, I just don’t have a good maths brain! Epidemiology was pretty interesting.
Most of all I enjoyed the opportunity to work at Healesville Sanctuary.
I did struggle a little with doing on-line subjects and would have preferred to have live lectures… I did not like online chat forums and discussions, maybe I just grew up in the pre-computer era!
This Masters degree assumed a prior degree in Veterinary Science. Although I believe they are now offering a similar Masters degree which is open to people who have other qualifications.
I enjoyed doing this part –time and on-line as I could do it in my own time and fit it in around other work and family commitments. I found the tutors very nice and did meet quite a few of them at Wildlife Disease conferences, which was great to be able to put a face to the name. The coordinator of the course is very knowledgeable and passionate about wildlife conservation and does a great job.
This degree definitely opens doorways to wider career paths in conservation and wildlife. It could lead to a change of direction or career path as a veterinarian.
Has your degree improved your career prospects?
This degree would make me more qualified to apply for veterinary jobs in areas of wildlife health, zoo medicine, wildlife pathology, academic teaching positions or research.
The degree could possibly lead wider and varied job options.
In my case it was instrumental in me being accepted into another post-grad degree.. a Masters of Philosophy through the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne, where I am conducting original research into an aspect of wildlife health, this may be changed to a PhD and then who knows!!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I were to give myself some advice in 1979, when I finished my Bachelor of Veterinary Science, it would be to “follow your heart” and “keep studying further and specialising in the area that interests you to make a niche for yourself”.
I would have advised myself to “seek out every opportunity to learn about native wildlife, their health, diseases and conservation, along with wider zoo medicine and to keep seeking work in these areas both in Australia and abroad”.