Graduate profiles - Bachelor of Environmental Systems

Millicent Rose Smith

Millie Rose Smith

Current student
Bachelor of Environmental Systems, 2nd year

Millie’s overseas travels and love of the outdoors influenced her decision to study environmental systems. “I travelled to Africa on a youth trip in 2006 and saw the profound impact that poverty has. A degree in environmental science gives me the capacity to work for numerous government and non-government run organisations that help people through extension work as well as research. I tossed up a few other degrees directed more towards social work and development but realised that a degree in the agriculture faculty gave me more options for my career and was much more interesting.”

After finishing school in Gosford, NSW, Millie travelled for a year before beginning her degree. “The subjects I took during the HSC and the teachers I had all helped me to develop a passion for science. Also Brian Keating the director of the CSIRO was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald saying, ‘We are going to need a revolution in agricultural productivity over the coming decades,’ and underneath it said ‘Brian Keating - on why agriculture is a good career if you want to change the world.’ I stuck it on my wall during the HSC so I had something to work towards.

“Environmental science is becoming a bigger and bigger issue every day. I want to get on board and start making a difference. Whilst I originally was going to study a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture I still wanted a degree with an environmental side.”

So, what lead Millie to settle on this particular degree at the University of Sydney? “The degree only goes for three years, which means less HECS fees and also the option to do honours, and further postgraduate work, which I am really interested in. It is the only place in Australia that offers this new degree and has such a small, close-knit agriculture faculty. When I spoke to people I found that the faculty had an excellent reputation within the community and graduates did well. The University itself is just a beautiful environment to be in – I especially love all the trees and grass that’s around for us to enjoy! I love the culture in suburbs surrounding the university as well as the culture within the university itself. Coming from a rural area I really wanted to experience living in the city.”

Millie and her class on a field trip to the forests of Victoria

Millie and her class on a field trip to the forests of Victoria

When she first moved to the city, Millie lived in university-owned housing next to campus. Now Millie lives with a friend and spends her spare time bushwalking, travelling and doing anything to do with music - listening to it, watching it, going to festivals. Outside the lecture hall, she also spends lots of time on field trips with her classmates, such as measuring quadrats in the forests near Melbourne, assessing river quality in the Macquarie Valley, taking samples from the deep soils of northwest NSW, even studying the environment in New Zealand!

There are plenty of options for Millie over the next few years. “My degree gives me a strong foundation in all the issues facing agriculture, the environment and sustainability. I would like to be able to help people in developing countries farm in sustainable ways. I am not sure if I will do this through direct work overseas, through policy or research. Environmental sustainability is the most important thing. I want future generations to see this world in the most pristine condition possible.”

Advice from Millie…
“Choose degrees in fields that interest you and aspects of your life. Work isn’t work if you enjoy it!
Look closely at the degree, the subject options, abilities to travel/field trips, flexibility, the faculty, future career options. Speak to as many people as you can about the degree. The more you find about it the better. Give yourself lots of options because things don’t always go your way.
If you can’t decide, select things that sound interesting. If you still can’t decide by the time offers come out you can always accept an offer, defer it for a year while you live your life and then reapply for a different or the same degree.”

Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

Recent graduate
Bachelor of Land and Water Science (Hons) (2007)

Michael is a Sydney-sider with a love of both the environment and mathematics. After studying environmental systems as part of his Land and Water Science degree in the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, he decided to major in soil science and biometry. This was where he was introduced to the idea of digital soil class mapping.

Digital soil class mapping is where scientists use computer models to predict soil types in a large area based on soil tests from only a few samples. A good model avoids wasting time and money to process millions of soil samples and help environmental managers to properly preserve or develop a piece of land. “To tackle this project my research involves a thorough understanding of the Spatial Generalized Linear Mixed model framework to develop a valid and workable model,” Michael explained.

Michael’s work involves both field and computer work. “I am using the R Programming language, as well as coding in FORTRAN. Findings from this work will enable digital soil class maps to be produced.” Michael’s hard work in learning the computer programming behind biometry in environmental systems has not only set him up for this PhD project, but also won him plenty of awards. “I was placed on the Dean's List for Academic Excellence in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and was awarded the Belmore Scholarship for Soil Science in 2005, Continuing Undergraduate Scholarship in 2005, Dean's Scholarship for Academic Excellence in 2006.” Michael graduated with the University Medal and is now paid from a Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship.

Part of his project involves coordinating with other scientists in the global soil class mapping efforts. “In the first year of my postgraduate studies I had the fortune to travel to Palmerston North, New Zealand to attend the Joint Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Soil Science Societies - Soil - the living skin of Planet Earth,” Michael said. “I presented a paper on the creation of digital soil class maps using legacy soil data and ancillary information.”

“Findings from this work will enable digital soil class maps to be produced with quantifiable levels of prediction uncertainty. Sampling schemes for soil class mapping will able to be produced that optimize sampling locations so as to minimize cost and maximize the information available.”

Read more about Michael’s work...
Nelson, M. A. & Odeh, I. O. A. (2008) Creation of digital soil class maps using legacy soil data and ancillary information: a genetic algorithm approach. Proceedings of Soil 2008 - the living skin of Planet Earth.