Who are you? What is your background? What have you been doing before this degree?
My name is Amanda Breidahl. I am currently studying a Master of Veterinary Studies (MVS) through the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science at the University of Melbourne. This is a Masters degree which is attained completely as the result of original research in an area of Veterinary Science. In my case, it is relating to wildlife health and conservation.
I began in March 2016. As I am studying part-time I am expecting to finish by March 2019 ( I think)!
I grew up in suburban Melbourne. When I finished school I went straight to University. I studied a Bachelor of Veterinary Science because I had all my life wanted to be a veterinarian. I graduated from Veterinary Science in 1979 and have been working both full and part-time as a veterinarian ever since, with some time off having my family.
In 2011 and 2012 and I did a Masters of Conservation Medicine through the Veterinary Faculty at Murdoch University as I had become increasingly interested in environmental issues and declining biodiversity, especially Australian mammals.
From what I learnt at that course and from attending Wildlife Diseases Association and other conferences I decided I would like to do some research into some aspect of conserving our endangered wildlife, hence I enrolled in the M. Phil in order to undertake some original research.
What made you decide to study a postgrad degree?
One of the drivers behind deciding to take on this degree was that I felt I had experienced a lot of private veterinary practice and I wanted to do and learn something different to finish off my working life. I wanted to study something that might make a practical difference to the amazing wildlife in our unique country.
I also considered trying to get a job as a wildlife or zoo veterinarian, but they are very hard to come by and are usually given to someone who is much younger than I, with more experience and can work full time.
The alternative post-grad degree I could have done was a PhD in the same area. I decided on the M.Phil as it seemed less daunting to start with… apparently I can convert it to a PhD along the way if I want to.
I chose the University of Melbourne as it is the only University in Victoria that has a veterinary faculty. Also it is where I did my undergrad degree and I feel comfortable there.
Tell us about your experiences studying your degree at your institution?
I have very much enjoyed learning how to go about setting up a research project. I have enjoyed doing an in-depth literature review on a specific topic and finding out everything there is to know on that particular topic.
I have just completed 6 weeks of fieldwork, which was very interesting… I learnt a lot about how to trap wild animals, how to anaesthetise them and other cool stuff, as well as meeting some lovely people.
I have also enjoyed learning how to do fairly complex molecular laboratory work… I feel like a real scientist! I have enjoyed mixing with other people researching wildlife and learning all about their interesting projects too. Everyone in this space is extremely nice. I have not enjoyed learning how to use a PC, learning how to make end-notes work and doing a Statistics subject!
I have enjoyed doing some of my work at the Werribee campus of the Veterinary Faculty as it is nice and quiet there, there are lots of really nice helpful people and it reminds me of my happy student days. I do some of my work in at the Veterinary Parkville campus and I enjoy catching the train in there and stopping off in the city on the way home. I also enjoy having a wander on the main uni campus and exploring the beautiful grounds. It can be tricky if I need to be at both campuses on the one day as travel between is difficult and this makes the faculty feel disjointed at times.
I would definitely rate the University of Melbourne as one of the best in Australia and recommend it to anyone considering going there. My postgrad research degree assumes a prior degree in Veterinary Science. Although it does not assume prior research experience or prior knowledge of your particular area of research. It could lead to a change of direction or career path as a veterinarian.
Has your degree improved your career prospects?
This degree would make me more qualified to apply for veterinary jobs in areas of wildlife health, zoo medicine, wildlife pathology, academic teaching positions or research. I do not have a current job, but if I were working in any area relating to wildlife disease, health or conservation this degree would definitely be a big advantage. The degree could possibly lead to higher salaries, as well as much wider and varied job options.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I were to give myself some advice in 1979, when I finished my Bachelor of Veterinary Science, it would be to “follow your heart” and “keep studying further and specialising in the area that interests you to make a niche for yourself”.
I would have advised myself to “seek out every opportunity to learn about native wildlife, their health, diseases and conservation, along with wider zoo medicine and to keep seeking work in these areas both in Australia and abroad”.