Callum Gillies was something of an all-rounder in high school. He studied a wide range of subjects in Year 12; Advanced English, Extension 1 English, Modern History, Visual Art, Biology and Chemistry, and did well in all of them. But none stood out to him. Callum says “Towards the end of high school, I felt disillusioned with choices; about which subjects I wanted to do, which university and which course.” Callum ultimately chose to pursue something he had always been passionate about; animals and the environment. He says, “I always knew I wanted to help the environment so I picked a uni course that interested me and I studied hard to get there.”
After graduating from Kincumber High School in 2012, Callum undertook a Bachelors of Environmental Management, majoring in Biology, at the University of New South Wales. Callum moved onto student accommodation in Randwick, and found he had made exactly the right choice for him. Callum says of his degree; “it allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge and experience in a biology and ecology course that I love. I was also able to study environmental economics, law, policy, Environmental Impact Assessment and people management subjects which challenged me and set me apart from other students.” His move to Sydney shaped the person Callum became after high school, and he found that the distance and independence was an invaluable learning experience. He says his move to Sydney “exposed me to a whole bunch of new experiences, friends and peers … although difficult sometimes financially, I made living in Sydney possible through working at the university call center, putting posters up and washing dishes to make ends meet.” Living so close to the university hub also lent Callum to a range of experiences and opportunities offered both by his faculty, and by the student exchange department.
He studied and travelled in South America, seized the opportunity to do fieldwork with wild life across New South Wales and made innumerable connections with peers and academics. It was these connections which led to Callum’s selection for an honours project at the University of Sydney in collaboration with WIRES NSW, for which he researched the success of hand-raised juvenile bushtail possums released into the wild. Callum says “the whole experience of honours was entirely new and I gained more independence and a new skill set through managing and performing my own research project.”
"If you are working towards something you enjoy doing you’re on the right track. Don’t let others dictate how successful you feel while you’re still trying to figure it out.”
Callum’s finished his thesis in early 2017 and scored a first class. The thesis is now on its way to being published and Callum’s lab has been granted funding to continue the research he started. Since finishing a long haul of studying, Callum is working in bush regeneration and considering his next move into either work in the public service or a PhD research project. The flexibility of his degree gives him options to pursue either research or management.
Since finishing a long haul of studying, Callum is working in bush regeneration and considering his next move into either work in the public service or a PhD research project. Callum says “sometimes your passion is blatantly obvious and sometimes it’s harder to find. If you are working towards something you enjoy doing, you’re on the right track. Don’t let others dictate how successful you feel while you’re still trying to figure it out.”