By Trista McKenzie
I have been in Australia for four days now, and so far it has been a relatively easy transition. I am a PhD student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa working with Henrietta Dulai and during my time in Australia, I am working with Isaac Santos at the National Marine Science Centre, which is part of Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour. My research here involves looking at groundwater discharge dynamics and tracing wastewater pollution to Sydney Harbour using pharmaceuticals and other geochemical tracers.
Getting to Coffs Harbour
Fortunately, Honolulu is one of the most convenient places to fly from the United States to Australia – just one easy ten hour flight. I arrived in Sydney Saturday afternoon and with no connecting flights for the remainder of the day to Coffs Harbour, I spent the day exploring Sydney.
The next day, I flew to Coffs Harbour on the Australian discount airline, Tigerair. For a 50 minute flight, I wasn’t too worried about the amenities on board or being able to pick a seat – but I got lucky and they upgraded me to an exit row. In all, a pleasant experience from Honolulu to Coffs Harbour.
First days in Coffs
Upon arrival at the airport, I was picked up by one of Isaac’s students who showed me around a bit. Coffs Harbour is pretty small compared to cities I’ve lived in previously, but I am excited to get to know everyone and change up my routine a bit (well, in some ways – I will still be surfing here in my free time, albeit wearing a wetsuit because it’s pretty cold compared to Honolulu). During my time in Coffs, I am staying with a family that live relatively close (20 minutes walk) to the National Marine Science Centre. They frequently host people working at the National Marine Science Centre and are really great people. They are also competitive cyclists (track, mountain biking, you name it), so my first day in we went on a small bike tour of the area. I borrowed one of their competitive mountain bikes, and I felt so incompetent because the bike was so responsive to any movement I made and there were a lot of hills (I normally commute to work by bike back home using a bike share on relatively flat roads) – but it was a lot of fun!
Monday was my first day at work. I was immediately ushered into a lab safety training and tour, was given a desk, and met a lot of people. Later in the day, we had a lab group meeting with Isaac and I am starting to prep for fieldwork in a few weeks. This is a very different environment compared to what I am used to working in: Isaac has a large lab group and the National Marine Science Centre is pretty much solely research-based (compared to where I work at the University of Hawaiʻi, which is located on the main university campus). I think it will be a really good experience for me in all.
At this point, I am settling in nicely. I am starting to get to know people, getting more familiar with the area, and getting into a bit of a routine. I’ve already joined a gym to keep up with my powerlifting and have located a suitable bicycle to get around town that I can borrow for my time here. I’m looking forward to my time here and a successful project and international collaboration!