CQUniversity Environmental Science student Sophie George is one of a rising tide of young people taking up studies in botany in a bid to heal a degrading world.
CQUni Plant Scientist and Environmental Science Lecturer Associate Professor Nanjappa Ashwath said he had seen a resurgence of interest in the Australian botany unit.
"The student numbers in this unit have increased this year' after a long dip over the last 10 years'" Assoc Prof Ashwath said.
"There are 41 students in the unit – last year we only had 15. In 2019' the unit had just 20 students.
"I used to have high numbers about 15 years ago' but they declined' so I was happy to have so many students attend the residential school this year."
So' is the increase a glitch due to the impact of COVID-19' or is environmental science – and more specifically botany - flourishing? Sophie would argue that it's the latter.
"Australian Botany is a foundation for Australian Science. As we move forward from an era of degradation into a time of restoration' this unit is essential in understanding how we heal this Country- and potentially the world'" she said.
"The unit focuses on Australian vegetation' what is' what was and what has been destroyed and how best we can restore it. It highlights the absolute importance of protecting and conserving what we have left' and rehabilitating and restoring Australia to her beautiful' diverse self- using her own seed.
"I believe the renewed interest is simply an awakening to the answer of our biggest problem- healing our Country with the resources already provided to us."
Sophie said she felt privileged to learn from Prof Ashwath.
"Not only has this unit taught me the Botany of Australia' but the framework needed to understand Australia's Ecology' work in the field and comprehend how our bioregions work. What gets me most excited about this unit - apart from the knowledge I have learned (and earned) completing this unit - but the ability to learn from one of the most experienced in the field' especially in this bioregion- Professor Ashwath'" she said.
"Learning from a lecturer who is so intricately versed in Australian Botany and having the opportunity to acquire skills from an incredible leader in Botany (and research) is priceless- and that gets me excited."
Sophie hopes to graduate early next year and is already looking to re-enrol and complete her Bachelor of Science (Biology) degree' which she put on hold after becoming a mother.
"When I finish my degree' I dream to go back for more study. As a senior student I believe you are never too old to stop learning'" she said.
"I see research in my future - lots of research and creating connections with landholders and Traditional Owners. There is nowhere else in the world I would rather study' learn and research.
"We are incredibly blessed to live in Australia' one of the most beautiful' diverse' thrilling and breath-taking Countries in the world' however we have a lot of work to do here."