The wilderness is in trouble. According to University of Queensland (UQ) research, more than 77 percent of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87 percent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities.
It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India — a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres — was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.
But while our wild places and their species are in peril, a whole generation of young people are working to conserve and protect. These young conservation heroes, who have all taken part in UQ’s Master of Conservation Biology program, are turning their passion for conservation into a career.
Here are their stories:
Nora Allan is saving endangered species, and it all began with her decision to travel to Australia to pursue further studies.
“I first came to UQ in 2011 with the University of California’s study abroad program, and absolutely loved it there,” she said.
“After I finished university in California I heard about the Masters of Conservation Biology program, and I knew it was the perfect fit for me. I wasn’t sure what route I wanted to go with my career, just that I wanted it to be in conservation.
“Now I manage a captive breeding colony of Amargosa voles, an endangered species native to California. My work is part of the Amargosa Vole Conservation Project, which involves teams at the local, state and federal levels. The captive animal population serves as an insurance colony and as a source of animals for reintroduction. I manage colony husbandry, train and oversee volunteers, and am involved in multiple research projects investigating the biology and management of the species.”
Nora believes UQ’s Master of Conservation Biology set her up for success in the field of conservation.
“The program’s mix of fieldwork, policy, industry and community engagement helped me decide which path to pursue, and gave me insight into all of the aspects I deal with in my current job,” she said.
“The breadth of study and intensive class schedule can be intimidating, but you will learn so many practical skills during your time in the program and come away with lasting connections with other conservation biologists.”
Solving environmental problems is what Daniella Teixeira enjoys most about her career in conservation biology.
As a Fisheries Scientist at Fisheries Queensland, Daniella is responsible for monitoring recreational fishers.
“My role is research based, allowing me to apply the scientific knowledge and skills I gained through my university studies,” she says.
“As well as my knowledge of marine science, I would say the most important skills for this role are being able to design experiments, statistical analysis, writing and public speaking.”
Daniella completed a Bachelor of Marine Studies majoring in Marine Biology and Ecology with Honours, before working with Fisheries Queensland as a boat ramp surveyor.
She then moved into roles with the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in koala conservation and coastal management.
After several years in the workforce, Daniella returned to UQ to study a Master of Conservation Biology.
“I wanted to further improve my knowledge and skills to advance my career,” she says.
“The Master of Conservation Biology appealed to me as it extended my knowledge not only in statistics, GIS and experimental design, but also conservation policy, industry engagement and philosophy.
“It provided a fantastic bridge between university science and real-world application, and no other program in Australia matched the breadth it provided.
“I can honestly say that it was a big leap in the right direction for my career.”
Half a world away from the beautiful Caribbean island of St Lucia, Lenn Isidore felt right at home with his address in Australia.
His destination: the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus in Brisbane. The campus is situated in an inner-city suburb, originally named after the West Indian island because of early sugar cane farming in the area.
But Lenn wasn’t on campus long, because as a student in UQ’s Master of Conservation Biology, he was soon immersed in exciting field experiences.
“My most memorable experience at UQ is indeed the most memorable of my lifetime,” he says.
“The seven days spent at the UQ Heron Island Research Station (within the Great Barrier Reef) were mind-blowing.
“On a typical day, after a breath-taking sunrise, we would encounter eagle rays, sting rays, a few different shark species, lionfish and two or three turtle species while snorkelling.
“At the day’s end, after a glorious sunset, we would sit under the stars and watch turtles come onto the beach to bury their eggs. We were also privileged enough to witness turtle hatchlings making their way from their sandy nests to the sea.”
Other enthralling periods during his time as a student in Australia included exploring Kakadu National Park in Australia’s Northern Territory; seeing humpback whales, dolphins, koalas and kangaroos, all for the first time during a single field trip to North Stradbroke Island near Brisbane; and handling venomous snakes at two snake-handling training sessions.
Lenn’s short-term plans involve time in industry, working with conservation non-government organisations. He is hoping for a longer-term research-oriented career in academia.
For more information about The University of Queensland’s programs and courses, including the Master of Conservation Biology, visit the UQ Future Students page.
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