Interview with Martyn Giles Ellis

FWPA Indigenous Scholarship recipient

Martyn Giles Ellis

Case Study

Name: Martyn Giles Ellis
Position: Forestry Student
Company: Australian National University (ANU)

  • Bachelor of Music

  • Recipient FWPA Indigenous Scholarship 2011

Age: 31

Why did you decide to study forestry?
Basically two things influenced me – I grew up with a lot of outdoor experience, I’ve always appreciated our natural environment – and I’ve always been a hands-on sort of person.
I grew up in Alice Springs and Gawler, north of Adelaide. My mother was a Bush Nurse who works in natural resource management and seed collecting too. My father was a teacher, although these days he works in bushfire research.
We spent a lot of times outdoors, I still do.

You studied music – it seems a long way from forestry?
Actually studying music was something I did for myself. I’ve always been interested in it and wanted to give myself a solid base – not lose all those years of learning music as a kid. I did jazz, piano, I still love it, but it’s not a career.

Have you done anything relating to forestry before?
Yes, I have. Quite a few things actually. I’ve worked as an arborist and I established and ran my own tree surgery business for two years. I did CSIRO courses in advanced tree climbing and seed collecting too.
I’ve spent time in Papua New Guinea where I did some work for a company growing balsa trees – they are amazing, they can grow up to 30 metres in 6 years!
I’ve also done some interesting work as a research assistant with PhD students whose projects involved soil degradation, carbon sink and bushfire research.

You could say I’ve been working towards something like forestry for a while, without really knowing it. So where do you think you’ll go in forestry?
I’m not sure. At the moment I’m just finishing first year, which is very general. I’m looking forward to getting into some more forestry specific subjects and finding out what areas I’m interested in. Community forestry and tree breeding are two of many topics that I want to find out more about.

What would you say to someone thinking about studying forestry?
Go for it! There are so many career options – and at the moment there seems to be a real shortage of foresters too. I think my next step will be a cadetship and I don’t anticipate too many problems in finding one.
But, I would also say, be passionate about what you do. Studying something you’re interested in makes it so much easier and more enjoyable. I love it here at ANU, because it’s what I really want to do.

You’re on the FWPA Indigenous Scholarship – how did that happen?
I read about it on the ANU website and applied. As simple as that. There are actually quite a lot of forestry scholarships and not many people studying forestry, so your chances of getting one are pretty good I think.

What’s it like being a mature age student?
It’s fine. I get along pretty well with other people and it’s quite an eye opener sometimes, seeing the attitudes and opinions of people straight from school.

Do you feel that what you are doing will make a difference?
I hope so. If it doesn’t I won’t be doing my job properly. Forestry is all about managing and growing trees – they are the lungs of the earth and essential to our survival on the planet.
One thing I hope I can do is help people see forestry with nature’s timescale in mind. We have a really short term view of things – a political cycle, or 5 or 10 years. In forestry that’s the blink of an eye. 
If I could help people look at trees and forests and think about 50, 100 or 150 years, That would make a difference.

Please note: We spoke to Martyn about his studies. We hope you find this useful and interesting – but please remember, that all courses and experiences are not exactly the same and may be different in many respects. You should confirm all the details of a particular course with the organisation offering it.