Meet AWC’s interns: Emily Simpson

Brad Leue/AWC

AWC offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Intern, Emily Simpson, shares her experiences below.


When did you start your internship? How are you finding it?

I started my internship in late February up at North Head Sanctuary, in NSW. Having grown up locally, it has been really special to contribute to conservation efforts so close to home. I’ve had the opportunity to survey a variety of native flora and fauna and reintroduce both the Brown Antechinus and Eastern Pygmy Possum to the headland. I’m excited to make my way to the Pilliga later this month, to assist with more fauna surveys and radiotracking.

What are your long-term goals in the science field?

I would like to continue contributing to on-ground conservation efforts, applying my skills to other meaningful conservation programs. I’m also interested in broader scientific research and would like to undertake a PhD at some stage. My interests are in improving the reintroduction success of threatened species, and the impact of fire on native flora and fauna.

In the first few weeks of Emily's internship, saw and handled her first Eastern Pygmy Possum.
In the first few weeks of Emily’s internship, saw and handled her first Eastern Pygmy Possum.

How did you hear about AWC’s science program?

I first heard about the internship through my lecturer at the University of Sydney, who suggested the program as a great starting point for someone wanting to work in the conservation sector.

What enticed you to apply?

Whilst at university, I had volunteered on a few surveys at North Head Sanctuary. I had loved the hands-on nature of the work, and appreciated how supportive the staff were in teaching you the ins and outs of animal handling and data collection. During this time, I also got to work with a couple of previous interns, who highly recommended the program to me.

Emily with an Eastern Pygmy Possum at North Head Sanctuary.
Emily with an Eastern Pygmy Possum at North Head Sanctuary.

What were some of your expectations going into the internship?

I didn’t have any specific expectations going into my internship, but I knew I was going into an environment chock full of new experiences. I was excited to develop my fieldwork skills and get stuck into hands-on work with some of our endangered fauna. I can definitely say I haven’t been disappointed!

Have elements of the program surprised you so far?

One of the aspects that surprised me most, was the level of trust and independence afforded to you as an intern. It made you feel like you were an integral part of the team and gave you confidence in your own abilities. It meant that after a few months, I could process animals on my own and eventually lead my own survey team!

Have you completed any other science internships? If so, how does this one differ?

This is my first science internship.

Emily and Aiden Wright, AWC Field Ecologist, processing wildlife at North Head Sanctuary.
Emily and Aiden Wright, AWC Field Ecologist, processing wildlife at North Head Sanctuary.

Is there a unique moment in the internship so far that you’ve really enjoyed or that stood out as a moment you’ll always remember?

I’ll always remember the first few weeks of my internship, when I got to see and handle my first Eastern Pygmy Possum. I’ll never forget checking a nest box to find a mum and her four furred young. It was amazing to be able to process and handle such tiny, yet important, critters. It made me so excited for the coming months, and all the new experiences I had ahead of me.

Would you recommend it to others interested in science-led conservation and why?

I would absolutely recommend this internship to others! For anyone interested in getting into the conservation field, this internship provides an unparalleled opportunity to develop both personally and professionally. You get to learn so many new things, from species ID to data collection to animal handling techniques. I’ve had an unforgettable time, and I’m sure you would as well!