During the summers of 2016/17, I was employed at CSIRO (Commonwealth Science Industrial Research Organisation) for a total of twenty-four weeks as a corporate communications officers in the Land & Water business unit.
The opportunity to work with Australia’s most reputable research organisation was an amazing experience, and allowed me to apply the knowledge gained through university on projects which could impact the long-term prosperity of some of Australia’s largest industries. These included Australia’s mining and agricultural industries, where I assisted in cases such as the restoration of mining legacies in the outback, and the tracking of feral animals in the Northern Territory.
The twenty-four weeks I spent at the organisation provided an opportunity to strengthen my research and communication skills, and taught me how to adapt these skills to different roles in the organisation. This ranged from accompanying scientists to conferences and assisting them in gathering communications content for the office, preparing communications plans for a research trip independently, aiding senior management in preparing research briefs and writing features for the CSIRO ECOS magazine.
Other roles included preparing the monthly newsletter through the Sitecore CMS, managing the organisations image database through the Tardis system, and attending meetings to gain a better understanding of the Australian governments expectations of the organisation, and what that means for our future communications strategy.
During my time at CSIRO one of the tasks I was delegated was to prepare a research brief for senior communication officers to aid in the construction of a portal that compiled vast swaths of research concerning CSIRO’s Future Cities project. It involved searching through the current research available to the public, and outlining the most crucial sections to include in the portal page.
The Future Cities project specifically addressed the rising population in our capital cities, and the importance of these areas in the future, and the challenges that would arise. The central themes to the research included studies on socioeconomic development, designing infastructure to be more resilient to extreme weather conditions, and how to be more energy efficient in concentrated areas.
On completion of the research brief I had gained an appreciation for the scale of the research being conducted at the organisation, and how the organisations vision allowed it to conduct numerous smaller research projects, with the purpose of compiling the research into an easily accessible and understandable guide to a rising issue for the future development of our societies. It is this that irked my interest in learning more about the theories behind development in the modern era, and am currently doing a graduate diploma in international/community development.
Throughout my cadetship I was provided the opportunity to be published in CSIRO’s ECOS publication which provides in-depth articles on the current research being conducted. The two articles I got published surrounded the use of LiDAR technology to detect invasive plant species which are terraforming the ecological landscape of Australia and altering the fire cycles behaviour, and one on the use of new tracking technology in the Northern Territory to provide real-time information on the movement of feral animals.
The writing of these articles required me to do background research on niche areas of scientific expertise before interviewing the scientists themselves and easing out some of the more complicated aspects of the topic. The process while difficult at first since not coming from a purely scientific background became easier throughout my cadetship as I was slowly exposed to the language and jargon used in the scientific community.
FIELD TRIP TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY
The field trip to the Northern Territory was an amazing experience to gain first-hand experience collecting communications content in the field and to create from scratch the communications plan that outlined the purpose of the trip. I joined the research team to document the trip and to collect information of the research the team was conducting on the movement of feral pigs and buffaloes in the region.
The ten hour days would see us setting up the base station in the Australian scrub, planting relay nodes in the surrounding area to pick up a signal and traveling out onto the flood planes to set-up the traps. It was an eye-opening experience which showed me just how much effort goes into collected data directly from the field and how much content can be derived from just a five-day trip.
During the field trip, we interviewed all the scientists on the team to outline the part of the research project they were responsible for and how their work contributes to the overall project. This information allowed us to construct two separate articles for the CSIRO blog and ECOS as mentioned previously. In the future, a video will be created from these interviews to show to the ministers in the Australian federal parliament.
One of CSIRO initiatives is to incite more indigenous high school students to consider a career in the STEM fields. To do this the communications team interviewed four indigenous employees (of which I was one of them) to talk about the path from high school to finally entering the workforce.
It was a rewarding experience and allowed us to flesh out the challenges of graduating from high school/university whilst trying to decide the career you want in the future. Filming the interview was particularly rewarding and I was tasked with constructing the interview questions which would be used to highlight this journey.
My responsibilities included
- Handling resources in the image database
- Preparing the monthly newsletter for ECOS
- Writing stories for the blog/ECOS
- Drafting case studies to showcase research CSIRO has done
- Creating research brief for upper-management to create a site portal
- Constructing a communication plan for a field trip to the Northern Territory to collect a range of content.
- Going to the Northern Territory to conduct interviews and photograph the research being done in the field.
- Engaging in sector meeting to provide input on future content the communications team can potentially pursue.
- Filming a short video to persuade high school students to pursue a career in the STEM field.