Graduate story: Jason Osmotherly
Overseas community project
Currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Civil Engineering
Indonesia's Way Kambas National Park on the island of Sumatra has been the focus of wildlife surveys and conservation work by Southern Cross University students for several years now. Jason went there on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship - and put his engineering knowledge to good use at the Elephant Conservation Centre, which is dedicated to caring for orphaned elephants.
"The elephants were drinking water from a dammed section of the river where they defecated while being bathed, creating sanitation and hygiene issues. This was identified as the most probable source of a disease that had been affecting the elephant community. A project was proposed to build a drinking station for the elephants and pump fresh groundwater that could also be used by the elephant handlers and the community. A feasibility study was needed but we were in the middle of a foreign jungle, had few tools and little technology, and were from a very different culture to the clients.
"Experiencing the complexity associated with cross‐cultural projects was a fantastic learning experience. I developed a more thorough understanding of the concepts I had learned in the first year of my engineering degree, while experiencing the skills and abilities required to manage cross‐cultural projects. Since then I have been acquiring knowledge and skills that would be useful in similar circumstances such as determining relative altitude, distance, mass, and construction material mechanics using natural resources and basic tools and technology.
"By the end of the journey I had evaluated the structural integrity of a 30m access tower for a jungle treehouse viewing‐pod; assisted with building two 10-cubic metre drinking stations for the elephants; tested electric fencing as an alternative to shackles for the baby elephants; designed and trialled toys and durable feed troughs for them; assisted with the implementation of a refuse and recycling system at the Elephant Conservation Centre; and most importantly - I GOT TO PLAY WITH BABY ELEPHANTS!!!"