“What’s it really like being a PhD at ARI?”

Welcome to the first of our PhD interview series, where we’ll be interviewing past and present PhD’s from the Australian Rivers Institute. First in the series is Dr Tessa Page a student who was supervised by Associate Professor Guillermo Diaz-Pulido and Dr Carmel McDougall.

Read Time: 682 words, about 4 minutes.

Just another day in the field for Dr Tessa Page. Photo: Griffith University.

1. What is your current PhD topic and what started your interest in this area? 

My PhD topic was understanding the molecular and physiological responses of tropical coralline algae to a changing ocean. Specifically, I investigated how ocean warming and ocean acidification impact coralline algae and how they will respond to these stressors. I also worked to add missing molecular information to this group of calcifying macroalgae. I’ve always been interested in how organisms will respond to future oceans under global change scenarios and if they will be able to acclimate or adapt. We are changing the environment that organisms live in, including ourselves, at a rapid rate. I want to know how species will cope with this, which is why I wanted to continue my research and do my PhD in this topic.  

2. What’s your favourite thing about your supervisor and ARI? 

They have supported me throughout my PhD, through all the failures and successes, and I wouldn’t have made it through without them. They both provided me with guidance but also allowed me to follow through with my own ideas, even if they were possibly doomed from the beginning… All in all, I really lucked out with my supervisory team! 

They have supported me throughout my PhD, through all the failures and successes, and I wouldn’t have made it through without them. They both provided me with guidance but also allowed me to follow through with my own ideas, even if they were possibly doomed from the beginning… All in all, I really lucked out with my supervisory team! 

3. Has doing your PhD been difficult or has the experience been as expected? 

Doing my PhD has of course been difficult, but rewarding and worth it! When you decide to undertake a PhD, you know it’s going to be challenging so I think I was mentally prepared from the beginning. 

Dr Tessa Page literally diving into her PhD research. Photo: Griffith University.

4. What would you like the ‘impact’ of your PhD to be? 

I work with important reef building species of crustose coralline algae and investigate how they will be impacted by future ocean conditions under human-induced global change. I hope the impact of my work provides further evidence that global emissions need to be reduced to protect the stability and functioning of coral reefs. 

5. Once you complete your PhD, what would you like to do next? 

I will continue in research and academia, with the first step being starting a postdoc in the next few months.  

Dr Tessa Page diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Griffith University.

6. What advice would you give to someone thinking about doing a PhD? 

Go for it! If doing a PhD is something that you want to do, don’t be frightened by the amount of work or stress that you know come along with it. It’s an extremely rewarding and fun experience, although prepare yourself for the work and stress.  

7. What advice would you give to someone starting a PhD at ARI/Griffith? 

Don’t be afraid to be adaptable. Things will not go exactly as planned and you will most likely have to adapt chapters of your thesis because of this. Don’t beat yourself up about having to change aspects of your PhD/thesis if they’re not working or you’re running out of time. This happens to most people, if not everyone! Don’t feel like you must stick to the original plan of your PhD Thesis and your proposed chapters/research, be ready to adapt and change as you progress through your PhD.  

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Photo: Griffith University.

8.Do have any fun stories you’d like to share about your PhD experience? 

Fun stories would probably be any story involving field work! I was extremely lucky in my PhD as I was able to conduct all my field work on reefs along the east coast of Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef and the southernmost true reef in the world – Lord Howe Island Reef. I think it was rather fun being able to dive, conduct research, meet amazing people, and spend time in these remote places… tough life, I know…  

Twitter:

You can follow Dr Tessa Page on Twitter here: @tessmpage

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