An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

Q&A with UWA Student Pete Dunstan

Since their first lab session in August 2011, UWA students have been active recording observations around Perth and the South West. This month we have a short Q & A with one of the students, Pete Dunstan.

Pete Dunstan recording observations at Piney Lakes Reserve

What are you studying at University?

I am a mature age first year molecular biology student interested in doing research into viruses, bacteria and diseases. However I have always had enjoyed the rush of seeing something remarkable in nature so I am studying the first year Plant and Animal Biology unit.


What are you enjoying about ClimateWatch?

This program is a great opportunity. You don't often get to do something in first year that contributes to research. I grew up overseas in the USA and Peru. Everytime we moved I would explore the local environment. Observing and recording takes me back to my childhood with the opportunity to explore.


What have you found surprising?

The focus on indicator species is great with common species like Willie Wagtails we see every day. However, since starting to observe more closely I have discovered new things about their behaviour. It's an exponential process. The more I know, the more I want to know.


I am also impressed with how powerful something like ClimateWatch can be for engaging people in climate change and helping people see the impacts on nature.


What was difficult?

When I first started out I found it was a steep learning curve to feeling confident with my observations. Knowing data is contributing to a national project. I had to make a few mistakes before getting it right. For example, I thought I was seeing a White-cheeked Honey-eater but it was actually a New Holland Honeyeater. Once I checked the field-guide though I was sure.


What was easy?

Finding motivation to do it. I mostly study outside with my laptop so I can check the field-guides and listen to the calls to help identify what I see.

Feedback from ClimateWatch when I have had a question and discussion with other students and lecturers have also helped.


What are your ClimateWatch plans after finishing your Biology unit?

I enjoy the project so much and what it's brought to my life. After this semester finishes I will continue to participate, promote it to friends and share this with my daughter.