During my frequent visits to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, it is alway a must to see the enhancements to the aquamarine program. The expanded program was a direct refleciton on the passion of Matt Basile, a now graduated senior who will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign this Fall.

Matt’s passion for wildlife was recognized by the John G. Shedd Aquarium which created the Steve Irwin Fellowship shortly after Irwin’s death to give a Chicago area high school student the opportunity of a life time to study at the Australia Zoo.

We congratulate Matt, his family, his teachers at CHSAS and the Shedd Aquarium for making this possible. Matt’s story is just another example of the amazing achievements of CHSAS graduates—the best in the world!



Crikey! He’s a jolly good fellow
Sunshine Coast Daily

By Jane Gardner

This isn’t your regular classroom and American lad Matt Basile is no ordinary student.

Matt, 18, has made history as the first recipient of a Steve Irwin Fellowship.

TheChicago teen has spent the past two weeks studying exotic wildlife at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and at Australia Zoo, emulating the work of his hero Steve Irwin.

“I grew up watching Crocodile Hunter and to actually be working here at the zoo he started with the animals he grew up with – it’s awesome,” Matt said.

Matt beat 20 other contenders, all of which had already won a fellowship at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. His scientific breakthrough in cloning coral put him ahead of the pack.

After just over a week here, Matt said he was smitten with the country and its spectacular flora and fauna.

“It’s so clean here,” he said.

“The people are very kind and everyone seems to care about the environment, well, more than the people in Chicago.”

He hopes to one day score a permanent position working in conservation in Australia.

“I want to work with the environment and animals, probably in fisheries and aquatic life where I can make more of a difference. I would really like to study abroad and eventually work here for a

Matt said the first thing he would say to his parents back home was: “I want to go back.”

The story of the Steve Irwin fellowship begins with a tiny Queensland Grouper fish left on the doorstep of an American aquarium in 1987.

The fish, named Bubba, found a home at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and grew into an 80kg tourist attraction.

In 2001, Bubba developed cancer and was the first fish in history to receive chemotherapy. Steve filmed a segment of the operation and the staff at the Shedd Aquarium were instantly impressed with
Steve’s natural empathy for living creatures.

After Steve’s death, they established the Steve Irwin Fellowship with the Australian Consulate General, Macquarie Bank and Qantas to send a teen from Chicago each year to study at Taronga and Australia

Matt was chosen to receive the honour over 20 other applicants.