Deep passion for the ocean inspires environmental graduate

Thursday, 5 July 2018


Inspired by her love of the ocean and coral reef, University of Newcastle research student, Laura Bradbury, is on an exciting path to improve the environment for future generations.

Having just returned from a month-long research trip to Heron Island, Queensland, the Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management graduate will join more than 500 students set to celebrate the culmination of their studies at the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah campus this week.

Laura Bradbury collects samples on Heron island. Photo: Charlotte Page

The ceremony marks a significant accomplishment for Laura, who, after a challenging journey through high school, was doubtful she would ever realise her dream of becoming a scientist.

“I struggled during high school as I had difficult circumstances at home and didn’t get the result I’d hoped for after my HSC exams. I honestly thought that was the end of it,” she explained.

After a career working as a Teacher’s Aid inspired to pursue a degree as a mature age student, Laura attended an Information Day at the University.

“It instilled a new sense of hope that an undergraduate degree wasn’t out of reach.

“It was actually my children who really pushed me to reach my goal. After coming with me to learn more about the Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management, they took me aside and said ‘this is what you want mum, it’s what you’ve been looking for’.

“I had recently completed Open Foundation, an enabling program the University had on offer, scoring an ATAR of 87 which filled me with excitement and possibility,” she said.

Working hard to re-learn the basics of biology, chemistry and mathematics at age 37, she rediscovered a passion for knowledge which saw her grades continue to improve.

“Studying full-time at university had its challenges, especially as a sole parent, but it was always important to show my children that they need to work hard and never give up on the things they want.

“I remember sitting my final exam, walking out knowing I gave it everything I had and then I cried. Partially from exam exhaustion and relief that it was all over but mostly from pride within myself that I was able to see it though and prove that I could do it… and do it well.”

Armed with her Bachelors majoring in Marine Science and Sustainability, Laura has continued her passion for study, now working on an Honours research project focused on coral reef regeneration.

“I’m looking at a specific species of coral called Pocillopora damicornis, or cauliflower coral, and its recovery after injury and coral bleaching due to climate change.

Pocillopora damicornis

“It’s a dominant species found in coral reefs around the world and has the ability to colonise areas that have been previously degraded. This is important in the future of coral reefs in a world facing the increasing pressure of climate change.

“I’m hopeful my research will expand the knowledge around the species and ultimately assist in the preservation of reef structure,” she said.

With a personal goal to achieve the title of ‘Dr’, Laura will be flanked by her children, sister and mother at her graduation ceremony, an occasion which symbolises the beginning of her next steps.

“Honours won’t be the end of my journey, as I’ve developed a thirst for knowledge and research and a strong desire to make a difference for the environment and for my family.

“I am proof that it’s never too late to explore something new and discover a new passion,” she added.

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