Meet the people of AWC: Senior Land Management Officer Dr Annemarie van Doorn

26 Jun. 2024
Luke Playford/AWC

Welcome to ‘Meet the People of AWC’, a captivating series dedicated to unveiling the heart and soul of our organisation through the stories of the incredible individuals who make it all possible. In this series, we’ll take you on a journey to uncover the unique stories, passions, and expertise of the incredible individuals that make Australian Wildlife Conservancy who we are.

Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary is a vast desert wilderness approximately 900 kilometres north of Adelaide. It covers 679,000 hectares (nearly 1.7 million acres) at the intersection of three of Australia’s central deserts: the Munga-Thirri-Simpson Desert, the Tirari Desert and Sturt’s Stony Desert.

Spanning over 140 kilometres from east to west, Kalamurina features vast, spectacular dunefields, a network of freshwater and saline lakes, riparian and floodplain habitats and small gibber plains. It provides refuge for a diversity of desert wildlife including the Crest-tailed Mulgara, the Dusky Hopping Mouse, the Eyrean Grasswren and the regionally endemic Lake Eyre Dragon.

With an annual average rainfall of less than 170mm and temperatures regularly exceeding 45 degrees, life for Dr Annemarie van Doorn, her partner Luke, and their son Lex living on-site can be challenging. Here, Annemarie’s role as Senior Land Management Officer is as varied as the landscapes on the sanctuary and changes constantly through the seasons.

An aerial view of the varied riparian habitats of the Warburton River, with Lignum and Coolabah. Wayne Lawler/AWC
An aerial view of the varied riparian habitats of the Warburton River, with Lignum and Coolabah.

“The variety of the work that I get to do changes almost daily, and there is rarely a dull moment out here. Aside from improving and maintaining the infrastructure on-site and offering support to the visiting science teams during surveys our work also includes land management.”

“One of the big problems we have is feral animals, particularly foxes and cats, which prey directly on native wildlife, so we are constantly doing feral animal control. Then there is weed monitoring and removal, visitor management, and so much more.”

“Another highlight has been developing relationships with the surrounding stakeholders. I also love the solitude out here; it is extremely peaceful and we get to experience some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets.”

Annemarie installing a camera trap. Luke Playford/AWC
Annemarie installing a camera trap.

“Before coming to Kalamurina my partner (Luke Playford) and I had never worked for AWC and were looking for a new challenge after many years in northeast Arnhem Land.”

“We have both worked in the environment field for over 20 years in Northern Australia, but we had never been exposed to the desert environment, as we both have always enjoyed living in remote locations, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity.”

“As a bird lover, Kalamurina is fantastic for a wide variety of species depending on the time of year -and I do have a soft spot for Eyrean Grasswrens.  However, it is very hard not to get excited when you see a Crest-tailed Mulgara!”

A Crest-tailed mulgara processed during a fauna survey. Dympna Cullen/AWC
A Crest-tailed mulgara processed during a fauna survey.

“One of the most challenging aspects of my role is also at times the highlight – and it is the remoteness of the location.”

“We are often cut off due to rain and one of our biggest obstacles over the past three years has been getting our son in and out of Adelaide so he could attend boarding school.”

“A second challenge was running out of water when our bore failed. I’m happy to say we now have a new bore – but for 12 months we depended on trucking water in from our neighbours.”

Annemarie and her family recently appeared in an article for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which visits Kalamurina to provide medical care and offers virtual consultations when needed.

Our “Meet the people of AWC” series will continue to introduce you to the dedicated individuals who contribute to the conservation and protection of Australia’s wildlife. Stay tuned for upcoming spotlights, where we’ll uncover the passions and expertise of our diverse team.

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Wayne Lawler/AWC
Wayne Lawler/AWC
Feature 18 Jun. 2024