In Their Element Science Podcast: Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Walk on the guide side

Unbelievable cuteness of three-week-old puppies // Training guide dogs // Caring for animals // And how animals care for us // Studying animal science

Pip Edwards

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“The dogs mean so much to clients, and it could just be them telling you that they went to the shops for the first time by themselves which they never could have done before."Pip Edwards - Graduate of the BSc (Animal Science)

 

About our guest

Pip Edwards, Puppy Education Supervisor at the Royal Society for the Blind with Lulu

Walk on the guide side: Lulu and Pip

Pip transforms people’s lives on a daily basis, one puppy at a time.

After completing her Bachelor of Science (Animal Science) she could hardly believe it when she landed her dream job (and almost everyone else’s!) as a puppy education supervisor with the Royal Society for the Blind. 

Now she oversees the training of pups destined to become guide and assistance dogs in our communities. 

Pip supports each puppy’s every furry step; from their birth, which she is present at, to their graduation. She also led the development of a program called Operation K9, which provides assistance dogs to Veterans of the Australian Defence Forces who suffer from PTSD.  

Join us for her conversation with presenter Sarah Davidson as she explains the superpowers of a dog’s nose, why she chose to work with animals instead of being an engineer, and the challenges of training people, as well as dogs!

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  • Bonus content

    Pip Edwards, Puppy Education Supervisor with Lulu interviewed by Sarah Davidson
  • Show notes

    Introduction:
    Welcome to In Their Element, a fascinating new podcast series offering a revealing glimpse into the unfolding careers of passionate science grads from South Australia's number one uni for science, the University of Adelaide. In this episode, we're chatting with Philippa or Pip Edwards, who's now absolutely smashing it out there in the workforce in what is definitely up there with the best jobs in the world. Yep, she is a puppy education supervisor.

    Introduction:
    Pippa graduated from the University of Adelaide's Roseworthy campus with a Bachelor of Science, Animal Science. Also, on offer at the same campus are a Bachelor of Science, Animal Behaviour, Bachelor of Veterinary Technology and Bachelor of Science Veterinary Bioscience. Pippa now works at the Royal Society for the Blind where we are recording today.

    Sarah:
    Pippa Welcome to the show.

    Pip:
    Thank you for inviting me.

    Sarah:
    Well, thank you for having us here. And thank you to Lulu who's also joined us, beautiful little pup.

    Pip:
    She’s quite asleep now.

    Sarah:
    And we've got a bowling tournament going on.

    Pip:
    Yes. We have the RSB who get used by vision impaired clients of ours, and they do lawn bowls, but indoor. Yeah, they get quite rowdy, quite competitive.

    Sarah:
    I've been hearing some giggles.

    Pip:
    Yes. And a bit of fun, it's all good fun. They make a big day of it.

    Sarah:
    That's so sweet. They were taking it very seriously.

    Pip:
    Yeah. It's competitive fun, but there's little streak of competition.

    Sarah:
    Well, we'll come back to the work you do with the RSB. But first as a little icebreaker, we ask every guest on the show; what is the coolest scientific fact or discovery you know of that you think needs a little moment of appreciation?

    Pip:
    Well, naturally given my role in life and my slight obsession with dogs, I'm going with their olfactory receptors. So dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses and we've only got six million. So it's pretty incredible, and I guess that's where the scent detector dogs detecting not only drugs and explosives, but also being able to scent when someone's about to have a panic attack or their blood sugar is getting low, things like that. Their ability to pick up on the slightest changes in the scent that our cells are giving off is pretty incredible.

    Sarah:
    That is so cool, they are so clever. I love them so much.

    Pip:
    They are. And cute.

    Sarah:
    So cute. So let's talk about puppies because how could you start anywhere but with puppies? You pretty much have everyone's dream job, including my own dream job. Tell us about what you actually do.

    Pip:
    So my role is a puppy education supervisor. When I saw that the job ad went up with the word puppy in it, I was like, "how can I not apply for this job?"

    Sarah:
    Obviously.

    Pip:
    It's a dream.

    Sarah:
    If I could do anything else in life.

    Pip:
    Yeah. And it's pretty incredible. I do get to obviously work with puppies, but a big part of my role is supervising and training volunteers to train the puppies. So it is a really unique role in that I get to work with both people and dogs.

    Pip:
    Yeah, It's pretty amazing and challenging in the sense that I'm always having to adapt how I'm teaching people and how I'm training dogs because the combination of a dog and a person is so unique. There's no two styles exactly the same that will work for two dogs. So it's good fun.

    Sarah:
    So these are pups destined to become guide or assistant dogs in the community.

    Pip:
    Yes.

    Sarah:
    And I read that... As you just mentioned, not only is there no cookie cutter approach, but also a large part of the training involves the people more than the dog.

    Pip:
    Yes, it is. And that is such a big part of my role. And as much as people think that all I do is play with puppies.

    Sarah:
    I'm really disappointed if you say anything otherwise.

    Pip:
    There's a lot of good to my job, but training people is a huge part of my job, and not just that, but recruiting volunteers. I'm out there doing talks, doing things like this, anything to get RSBs name out there, getting volunteers interested. If anyone would ever be interested in volunteering with us, I urge them to give us a ring and have a chat because we would not be able to place dogs without volunteers because we would not be able to place dogs that haven't been raised. They're not born guide dogs, they're trained by the hard work of the volunteers and the support of myself and my colleagues. A huge part of my job is working with people and the puppies are a huge benefit.

    Sarah:
    Well, I hear you've had 18 new benefits just join the family.

    Pip:
    Yes, we had a very big week. Two weeks ago now, we had pups born on a Sunday, pups born on a Monday and pups born on a Wednesday. So 18 pups joined RSB family a couple of weeks ago. So they are about three weeks old, which is my favourite age. I think personally, I believe they peak in cuteness at three weeks old.

    Sarah:
    That is a big call.

    Pip:
    You don't…I can't… I see dogs every day, but I see three week old puppies and I still turn to mush. I just love that age so much.

    Sarah:
    I was so devastated that they weren't actually on site today.

    Pip:
    I am so sorry.

    Sarah:
    But also glad because how would we get anything done?

    Pip:
    Yes. I go there for visits and you just wasted an hour just staring at them.

    Sarah:
    Oh, my gosh.

    Pip:
    They're just so beautiful.

    Sarah:
    So you mentioned they don't get born guide dogs. What is the actual process from this early stage? Even the fact that they go into homes from three weeks is so young. What is the process of training them? How long does it take and are there particular breeds that work best and what kind of activities do you do to prepare them?

    Pip:
    Yeah, for sure. So that's another part of my role as a puppy education supervisor overseeing the breeding program. So myself and my colleagues get to decide the matings, so picking the mums and the dads. We then support mum during her pregnancy, making sure that she's at her peak health, and then we are there for the birth.

    Pip:
    So we get caught up because dogs usually have the babies in the middle of the night. So my Sunday whelp started at 12 midnight and my Monday work actually started at 9:00 PM, so that was really nice of her. And the Wednesday one was an all nighter as well. So they always have them in the middle of the night because they go back to their instincts of doing it at the safest time.

    Pip:
    So we try to be there to support the volunteers because we have such a broad range of volunteers that come to us. Some that have had dogs before, but some that have never had a dog in their home. So our whelpers are really incredible people. Our whelpers are the people who look after the mum dogs. And they're really incredible, but the birth can be a really long thing: it can last 15 hours.

    Pip:
    So we're there supporting them and making sure that mum's doing well, making sure that the pups are all safe and healthy. And once they're born, that's actually when the training really starts. We're introducing things to the pups at appropriate times. The pups are born without their eyes or their ears open, so all they've got-

    Sarah:
    I didn't know that.

    Pip:
    Yeah. So they're just like little worms.

    Sarah:
    Little slugs.

    Pip:
    Yeah, little slugs. Really cute slugs, but they don't do a lot, they just wriggle round and squeak and find mum. So around age two, three weeks their eyes start opening and then their ears start opening. So we're introducing different things to them, introducing different textures: just having a rubber mat in their soft whelp box. We're just introducing things like that so that they're best prepared.

    Pip:
    So as their development goes with their sight and their hearing, we're introducing noisier things, more challenging things. They have to climb up a bridge when they're seven weeks old or do little things like that, but It's all best to set them up for their puppy education.

    Sarah:
    That's still the cutest though.

    Pip:
    Yeah. It's pretty cool. So at eight weeks old they go out to their puppy educators and that's where the one on one training starts. So before they're with their mum, they're with their siblings, they're learning a lot of social things and etiquette from their mum that we can't possibly teach them. So at eight weeks they go out to their puppy educators and that's where how to behave in the home starts, walking well on a leash. We actually get them to toilet on command, on leash.

    Pip:
    So everything that we do, we're doing looking at the future. Looking at them going with a client who has no vision or very limited vision. So we want the dog to be able to toilet on leash and on command, so that if you did have limited vision, you would be able to comfortably toilet them. And you're not going to walk into your backyard and step on a little present that they've left you.

    Sarah:
    A little gift for the family.

    Pip:
    Yeah. And home behaviours are super important for anybody regardless of which program they go into. So their puppy education lasts for generally 14 months, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter, depending on the dog because very similar to people, they all learn at different rates and they're all ready for the next step at different times. So we generally bring them into formal training around 14 months old, and then that's when they come to the office where we are today and they start their formal training in either the guide or the assistance dog program.

    Sarah:
    What's the difference between guide and assistant dogs and why are they split off?

    Pip:
    So the RSB guide dog service started first. So RSB has been around for over 136 years now. It was started by a man called Andrew Henry Wyatt who was vision impaired himself. And he started RSB as a place to employ vision impaired people, and to give them a chance to get back to the community. So they started off in our factory, which is still running today, which is just across the car park.

    Pip:
    So now they do super cool things like Thermo forming and cutting. And a couple of fun things like packing show bags at Showtime, which it always smells like Fruchocs here during show time, which is incredible.

    Sarah:
    Not a bad thing. Puppies and chocolate.

    Pip:
    Yeah, exactly. So the factory is a huge part of RSB and then it grew providing different services to vision impaired people. So we have OTs, occupational therapists, orientation mobility people. We have our low vision centre, which is providing different magnifying glasses, glasses, anything that would be an aid; talking clocks, talking thermometers-

    Sarah:
    That's so cool.

    Pip:
    Yeah, it's pretty incredible. And then in 2006, the guide dog service started. So they were just looking at how else can we improve someone's independence. And guide dogs have been around for a really long time, so naturally that was... It's always been known of, but we jumped on that bandwagon and opened the guide dog service in 2006. In 2014, we started operation canine, which is our assistance dog program.

    Pip:
    So there's a huge range of different assistance dogs. Some that I've already mentioned: the dogs that detect panic attacks and blood sugar, diabetes dogs, things like that. We went with dogs to provide to veterans suffering from PTSD-

    Sarah:
    So fascinating and important.

    Pip:
    ... It's so rewarding. It's incredibly rewarding. Don't get me wrong the guide dogs are just as amazing and they are changing people's lives. And no matter which client you speak to, just the difference that the dogs makes gives you goosebumps.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. Well, I was just about to ask, that was my next question. Once I've graduated, I imagine it's not just about raising a healthy puppy and having lots of fun with very best friends, but also literally changing people's lives and enabling them to have the independence and quality of life that they couldn't have before. So what are some of the, maybe not even specifics, but just some of the stories that you've encountered or that you've been able to impact people's lives in your work here?

    Pip:
    Yeah. So I think it's incredible everyone is so different and the dogs mean so much to clients. And it could just be a client telling you that they went to the shops for the first time by themselves, which they had never been able to do before. And with our clients that are vision impaired or blind, they often have to rely on a family member or a friend or a carer to be able to take them out safely. And a dog is able to do that for them and gives them that independence, which they couldn't have got through a white cane.

    Pip:
    So it's pretty cool. A guide dog isn't for everyone and an assistance dog, isn't for everyone, but we've had some of our veterans go in a lift for the first time in 40 years. Small things like that, and you're just like... You take that for granted that we do that without thinking, but for them, that was the biggest deal. And when they send you a message saying, I just did this, and you can just tell how excited they are. It's really cool.

    Sarah:
    I'd be a mess. I'd just be crying all the time.

    Pip:
    Yeah. We have our annual graduations and I think I tear off at everyone. I've been here for like five years and it still gets me.

    Sarah:
    As in the puppies graduate or the people graduate?

    Pip:
    Yeah. When they go out with the clients. So we call them a team. So when the dog goes out with their client, we call them that's their team. So when the team graduates, we do celebration and it's really cool.

    Sarah:
    What if the puppies don't pass their training or just aren't suited because as you mentioned dogs have all different kinds of personalities, just like us. And I actually met one of the dogs who... Actually, no, he was retired, but Lulu under the table is now, what is she?

    Pip:
    She is a PR dog.

    Sarah:
    She is a PR dog?

    Pip:
    Yeah. And also she's my best friend. So she wasn't suitable to work due to just a small health concern. So when we do put out dogs, we do want them at the best quality for our clients. We want them to have the longest healthiest working life possible, and she didn't quite make it. We were able to find a position for her as our PR dog because, unfortunately you guys can't see, but she is incredibly beautiful.

    Sarah:
    She is so beautiful.

    Pip:
    I may be biased.

    Sarah:
    I feel like she knows it though.

    Pip:
    Yeah.

    Sarah:
    She is like, "Hey, I am the PR dog. Nice to meet you"

    Pip:
    She works it. You get a camera out and she like poses.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. She did for me before.

    Pip:
    Yeah. She knows it. So it doesn't happen too often fortunately because we have our breeding program that we've been working on since 2008. We've been endeavouring to make the healthiest dogs and buyers being able to choose. We also share genetics, not only within Australia, but internationally. So like Lulu’s father came from the UK. So we're able to collaborate with other schools that we have relationships with under the bracket of the international guide dog Federation. Everyone's doing the same thing, and we're all working towards the same goal. We want to improve people's lives in their independence and make a difference, so everyone's really friendly.

    Pip:
    They do conferences every two years and you get to actually put faces to names of people that you've emailed and bounced back and forth with and you're like, "Wow, you have a face." So through our sharing genetics, we're able to really hone down the breeding and make the healthiest dog. So fortunately it doesn't happen too often. And the same with temperament, we're breeding the temperament to be a guide dog. They're not born a guide dog, but hopefully we've provided them with the best start by breeding the temperament that we want them to be.

    Sarah:
    That's so fascinating that there's such a broader community out there. And I think that collaboration just reminds me so much about how the broader science community really shares knowledge for the greater good of humanity. And people outside science don't necessarily know because we hear of scientists coming out with new IP and like things that are one off discoveries, but it's so cool to know.

    Sarah:
    And you also mentioned genetics just then, which brings me back to the fact that this all started from a science based degree, which is not necessarily what I would have expected a science grad would end up in. But how did you actually prepare for this career? For example, when you were in high school, did you know that you could become a puppy education supervisor? What led you to this pathway?

    Pip:
    So mine wasn't necessarily a straightforward one. When I was in high school, and I still really love cars, but when I was in high school I was set on being an engineer. So originally I was accepted into Adelaide uni once again, but in their mechanical engineering and sustainable energies degree, which excited me beyond belief and I'm still very curious about it.

    Pip:
    I would still love to do it if I could, but I took a gap year because that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to get a bit more life experience under my belt. I did some traveling; I did some work experience in some vet clinics. I did some volunteering at the animal welfare league.

    Sarah:
    I was just going to ask about that.

    Pip:
    Yeah. So I was working full time and just at a supermarket and money's great, but I was a bit bored. I've always loved animals. My parents will tell you ever since I was a kid, I've always had a dog next to me or if there was a dog somewhere, I'd go find it. So I've always loved that, the opportunity, I don't know how I got the idea to be honest, but the opportunity came up to volunteer there and I jumped on it.

    Pip:
    I started off just doing basic things. They have different levels that you can just go and pet the dogs. You can just go and read to the cats. It's really cool and then you get more training and then you can start taking the dogs out for walks and take them to the beach.

    Sarah:
    You get promoted to the next level of dog excursion.

    Pip:
    Yeah. And I have a drive, I love to learn, I love to achieve things. So the fact that they had these different levels, I was like, "All right, I'm going to do it. I'm getting to the top."

    Sarah:
    Climbing that ladder?

    Pip:
    Yeah. I was like, "Volunteering, I'm going to be the queen." So I went and changed my preferences and applied for animal science at Adelaide uni. And that was the only one that I changed my preference to, if I wasn't going to do engineering, then this is the degree for me.

    Sarah:
    That is such a cool journey.

    Pip:
    Yeah. It's different how I got there, and it was really cool once I told my dad, he's like, "Right, let's drive out to Roseworthy. Let's go see the campus." So we did the drive out there and I saw the Roseworthy campus, which is really beautiful.

    Sarah:
    That's a campus that's almost entirely animal focused, isn't it? So as well as your degree, there's also a Bachelor of Science Animal Behaviour, Bachelor of Veterinary Technology, and a Bachelor of Science Veterinary Bioscience. There's just so many options, it's amazing.

    Pip:
    Yeah. I think they've got some agriculture as well, which all blends in, but it's a beautiful mix of old buildings and new buildings and countryside and modern twist. I love Roseworthy campus.

    Sarah:
    I also think it's a great reminder that I think we all have this expectation that we are meant to graduate school and just know what we want to do. And then the option of how we're going to get there is so clear, but that's rarely how it works. And there are so many different pathways into so many different jobs that you never expected. And I love that you didn't even necessarily know that there were jobs with dogs until you had one and then you were like, "I want to do this properly." And then reverse engineered almost what degree do I need to do that?

    Pip:
    Yeah. Problem solving and a little bit of back and forth, but I knew in my mind that I'd made the right decision. And then I was really lucky that the animal welfare league employed me during uni studies. So after I was volunteering for about a year, a position came up there. I actually worked there for four years and I found some people who really believed in me, and I think that can go a really long way for someone.

    Pip:
    I think, especially with women having another woman building you up and supporting each other is really incredible. I want to do that for someone one day. I want to be that person to build someone else up. So I had a few really amazing mentors at animal welfare league. When the Royal Society for the Blind advertised my position of puppy education supervisor-

    Sarah:
    Still love you saying that word.

    Pip:
    Still love it. I spoke to them, I was scared to leave them because I loved the Animal Welfare League. And I loved my friends and my support systems there, but they were so encouraging and they gave me the confidence to apply and here I am now. It's pretty cool.

    Sarah:
    Supervising puppy education.

    Pip:
    Yeah. Changing puppies lives one at a time.

    Sarah:
    Well, if there are any aspiring puppy education supervisors listening, it's great to know there is a mentor out there who is prepared to help support you through the journey. So to give people who are curious about the actual pathway to getting there, what are the three years that you spend on campus doing this degree like? When can you do electives?

    Sarah:
    And I know you do have to study more general animal production and welfare; you can't specialize necessarily in puppy straight away, which I think really makes sense to give you as much of a broad setting up for understanding animals generally. So what were your three years at Roseworthy like and what can someone expect going into the degree?

    Pip:
    So the first year was the really general sciences year. You do your chem, your bio. I did physics because I still love physics. You do that and you do one day a week out of Roseworthy. So you get a bit of time in the city, which I think as far as the university experience goes, the Adelaide University campus is on North Terrace, it's beautiful, it's right next to a mall.

    Pip:
    You see that experience of going to uni, whereas the Roseworthy campus is a bit tucked away. So I think it's really great that they do that year, that first year in the city because it is a lot of fun as well as learning of course, serious learning.

    Sarah:
    Which can also be fun.

    Pip:
    Yeah, exactly. So that's your general science really preparing you for the second and third years. And then you start getting into the animal behaviour and genetics.

    Sarah:
    And also that leads to breeding programs, which is what you're doing now, which I think is so cool.

    Pip:
    Yes. And what's really cool is that Adelaide University have actually asked me back to do some lectures.

    Sarah:
    That's awesome.

    Pip:
    Yeah. So I get to actually lecture future me’s.

    Sarah:
    You're already being a mentor to future public education specialists.

    Pip:
    Yeah, it's good fun. It is really nice. You mentioned the elective, so the summer school and winter schools, so I got to do the ethics, animal ethics, which was really interesting. There's a biotech course, which I also lecture out if anyone wants to-

    Sarah:
    Is interested. Tell us about animal biotech.

    Pip:
    So it's looking at the... My lecture is on the challenges that RSB faces. So not only recruiting volunteers and things like that, but doing artificial insemination and looking how the future will be. Our science just keeps improving and growing and learning in this field where we could be in 10 years, 20 years.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. And so you just mentioned the use of biotechnology in this area of animal science, what do you think the future holds for us? What amazing developments can we expect?

    Pip:
    I think in the guiding area, technology's improving so much, not only with your smartphones, but with other adaptive technologies. So everybody sees a vision impaired person with a white cane, that's what kind of comes to mind, but these days they're these tiny handheld units that use laser and they vibrate when you get to a wall. So rather than having the physical input through the white cane, it's just a little vibration that's so subtle when it's just to that person, you would just think that they're holding their hands in front of their chest.

    Pip:
    So where technology can take the guiding the vision impaired area is really exciting. Every conference we talk about the next step of driverless cars, but I don't think a guide dog will ever be not useful. Because a driverless car can get you there, but your car can't get you into the coffee shop, your dog needs to do that, so it is really cool. I think the guide dog will definitely still have a place in this world.

    Pip:
    As far as other areas you're looking at improvements in artificial insemination and making that process nicer and quicker and safer. It's a surgery on the dogs when we do an artificial insemination, so improvements in that area will be amazing. And the smallest things like how we store semen and how we collect it and things like that, it's all going to grow and change and just keep getting better.

    Sarah:
    That's such an exciting future ahead.

    Pip:
    Yeah, it's really cool.

    Sarah:
    I was looking at... There's even electives on pig production and you can go really specific if you want to or you can keep it really broad. There's so many options.

    Pip:
    You can and I think that's really cool. My friends from uni that I've made, and I definitely made lifelong friends at Adelaide uni. One of my friends, my best friend is doing a PhD in pigs production at the moment, which is so cool. So it's pretty cool how we all did the same degree, but we all had such different interests and we're all spread out across Australia.

    Sarah:
    That was actually my next question was, what other jobs could you have considered and what did your peers go into? Because I think that's another thing that people really underestimate about science is because I think we are taught at a primary school level that science is very specific and there's specific buckets and it looks like certain things. I think we underestimate that out in the real world, the applications are infinite. You can go into anything.

    Pip:
    And that's I think an important thing for kids thinking about picking a degree, is don't necessarily be scared of a degree that doesn't have a specific outcome. Like if you go into a teaching degree and you want to be a teacher, whereas if you go into animal science, you're going to learn so much and you really get to pick where you want to go. And just because you pick that doesn't mean you're stuck on that path forever.

    Pip:
    I know people that have gone into cow nutrition and now actually working alongside me, so it's really cool. You can go into research, you can go into the labs, you can get more hands on, be a farm hand. I've got another friend on a cattle station. So it's just really incredible if you're open to learning and trying new things then animal science is definitely for you.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. I think also there's a broader societal impact beyond just the individual as well that people don't necessarily make the connection with. Our population is expanding so rapidly towards like 9 billion people by 2050. And that brings in broader social issues like food security and agricultural impacts where suddenly animal science isn't just we want to look after the welfare of the animals, it's we want to look after the welfare of the whole population.

    Pip:
    Yeah, exactly. And it is the farmers doing such a good job of keeping the animals happy and healthy and science is right behind them, making sure that they've got the best diets, making sure that they've got the best vet care. Whatever it is, science is behind it. So without researchers, without people thinking about how the world could be better, we wouldn't-

    Sarah:
    Be progressing as much in those areas.

    Pip:
    Yeah.

    Sarah:
    I was reading as well about... You mentioned biotech before and the use of technology in the field is also used widely for things like disease control and food quality and stuff that we take for granted. That our food is safe and that crops are protected from disease, and the animal communities are safe from things that won't transmit to us, and that kind of thing relies on science.

    Pip:
    Exactly. And I think so many people they market the meat as hormone-free, but it's been so long since hormones have been used in those areas. So the marketing is taking the mic a bit to make people scared of other sources. So the farmers are doing the right thing, you've got to just trust that Australia has got your back.

    Sarah:
    Speaking of farmers, I read that there's actually a working farm on campus and a veterinary clinic.

    Pip:
    Yes.

    Sarah:
    So how much of your degree is theory and how much is practical? Are you doing labs and testing? Are you out in the field? Do you get exposure to animals? How much do you get to get your hands dirty?

    Pip:
    Yeah. It's really cool. So the first year, you're only one day out at Roseworthy. So three hours out of the week you get to do hands on with animals, but in your second and third years, depending on the courses that you pick obviously there's a fair bit. So they do have the cows, they have pigs just up the road, they've got chickens on campus. It's so cool. I'm actually petrified of chicken, so that was the biggest hurdle for me, which was hilarious.

    Sarah:
    Are you scared of chickens?

    Pip:
    I'm scared of all birds, which is interesting.

    Sarah:
    For an animal lover that is fascinating.

    Pip:
    Exactly.

    Sarah:
    I actually was introduced to the University of Adelaide through Michelle Birkett, who's a senior zookeeper. Talking to her about her degree and how she ended up working with animals and fulfilling her passion and just loving every minute of her life. And I got to visit her at the zoo and she has these huge birds of prey that come and swoop down and sit on her hand-

    Pip:
    Sounds like my nightmare.

    Sarah:
    And she put it really close to my face, and I was like, "You are not cute and fluffy like everything else."

    Pip:
    Yeah. I'll stick with the cows and the horses over the chickens any day. But it is really cool, the Roseworthy campus is really incredible and everybody out there. The vet centre has been there for a while, but they just recently built their equine specialty centre, which is very incredible. If anybody, listeners get to hear about a tour, I'd definitely go have a look because it's really incredible. They've set it up, especially for horses, which there's a lot to consider when you're dealing with animals that big and that heavy. It is really cool out there.

    Sarah:
    I feel like the collective knowledge base and level of facility and opportunity at this campus... I want to go on the tour, which is so fascinating.

    Pip:
    Some of the lectures are just incredible people and you don't realize until you start doing a research paper and you Google and suddenly there's like 20, 30, 40 articles coming up that they've written, and you're like, "My lecturer is so cool. He's published so many papers." And you're like, "Oh wow, this is amazing to have him who wrote that paper standing right in front of me."

    Sarah:
    That's I think another thing that's come up through this podcast is seeing how the community at the university seems to really pull talent together to bring everyone's collective experience and academia and everything together to make available to students the most possible knowledge base. But also you get the opportunity to come back to the uni and stay involved and pass on your own knowledge and experience to younger students.

    Pip:
    Definitely. And I remember the RSB did a lecture when I was there. It is really nice.

    Sarah:
    Yeah. And for it to be coming from people who have industry experience as well and who not just have industry experience, but are currently still in the industry, I think is invaluable for students to be able to access because theory and practice is so different. You're getting both and giving both now.

    Pip:
    Yeah. And my journey was a little bit different to everyone else's because I didn't want to do production animals. I was surrounded by friends that wanted to work with sheep and cows, but there is no one way to do university.

    Sarah:
    That is so reassuring and inspiring. And I do think we need to get out of that mentality that there is one way, one right way to do particular things. And the more I delve into these offerings, the more I realize that there is no pathway, there's pathways and-

    Pip:
    And you make it for yourself, you create your future.

    Sarah:
    Totally. If you could do anything in animal science with your background, no restriction, in your ultimate dreamland. Are there jobs or a problem in society that you would love to be able to solve or just work in an experience?

    Pip:
    I have a lot of stuff that I would love to do. I would love to become an assistance dog instructor, so to be able to train our operation canine dogs. I would love to work with sniffer dogs or in the police. I think that's really interesting, the training's really different, that really intrigues me. Just learning about all the different therapy dogs and possibilities for animals out there. Equine therapy: I do love horses as much as I've said that I'm companion, I have horses and I really love them.

    Sarah:
    They can be companion animals. 

    Pip:
    So there's equine therapies that are coming through now really strong in Australia as well. So in this field it's endless, so there's no one thing that I want to do. I just want to keep learning and I want to keep trying to be better.

    Sarah:
    What an exciting prospect that there are no limits. That's just an ideal scenario.

    Pip:
    Yeah. You can change your career. I think I'm young, I'm only 27, I think.

    Sarah:
    I think, Let me check.

    Pip:
    Time flies when you're an adult. I'm still young, so I still believe that I could have a career change, but I'm so happy in my field that I don't think it would be a very big career change.

    Sarah:
    You'd do dogs with different jobs.

    Pip:
    Exactly. Just keep touching dogs every day.

    Sarah:
    That can be a criteria though.

    Pip:
    If there's no dogs in the office, I don't want to go.

    Sarah:
    I nearly didn't come once I knew that the puppies weren't going to be here.

    Pip:
    Sorry mate. I've got Lulu, come on.

    Sarah:
    I know she's such a sweetie. I just think it's so cool that animals have jobs like dogs know when their uniforms on, when their uniforms off. They know the different sets of rules, that just fascinates me, that they go to work like us.

    Pip:
    And they love it. There's some extremists that believe it's cruel, but I know the way that we train dogs. And I know that all of our RSB dogs are so happy and they love their work and we would never put a dog out that didn't because that's not fair. And that's not who we are, we love dogs. So these dogs thrive off of work, they love it. Their brain is equivalent of a toddler, a three year old. When you're teaching them things, you've got to understand that there are limits, but they do remember things and they learn and it's really exciting to see them push themselves and have the drive to work.

    Sarah:
    That's so cool. What would you say to people who don't think science is for them? Because I think that's another barrier that people have this typecast of a scientist who's always loved sciences. And especially now from meeting a lot of graduates, I'm like most people aren't that type of cast and the jobs that you go into also, aren't the stereotypical job that you think.

    Pip:
    It's so broad. You don't have to be the lab geek, you don't have to be a geek at all. If you don't want to sit in a lab, then you definitely don't have to, you can get hands on. It's just be open to something that you didn't even expect. You might end up in a job that you didn't know existed. You may have never heard of the job puppy education supervisor because I definitely hadn't. If you'd asked me 10 years ago where I'd be, I would never would have said this, but it's so cool.

    Sarah:
    I feel like you are going to have some fierce competition after this podcast though. Everyone's going to be like, "oh, puppy."

    Pip:
    Everyone's going to be coming after my job. It's all right. Maybe one day when I retire, you can have it.

    Sarah:
    Well, thank you so much for joining Pip. This was absolutely wonderful, so fascinating. And Lulu is actually the prettiest.

    Pip:
    She's very gorgeous. We might wake her up for a cuddle now.

    Sarah:
    Yes. Thank you.

    Pip:
    Thank you very much.

    Ending:
    Thanks for listening to In Their Element. It's been an absolute pleasure bringing it to you. If you enjoyed what you heard, be sure to subscribe to the series and we'll send you an alert the moment our next episode drops. And more importantly, if the career path you've heard about here, appeals to you, jump on the Uni of Adelaide website today to learn all about the science degrees that can get you there. Until next time, bye.

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