AWC offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Robyn Davies shares her experiences below.
When did you start your internship? How are you finding it?
I started my internship in July 2023 at the Pilliga Wildlife Sanctuary, and in October I moved down to Mallee Cliffs for the second half of my internship. It’s hard to believe that I’m a little over halfway through and I’ve already had so many incredible experiences. It has felt like every week I’ve learnt some new wildlife surveying skills, from surveying Bilbies and Brush-Tailed Bettongs on my very first day, to doing nocturnal surveys for Barking Owls, surveying orchids and even being involved with a Bandicoot translocation. I currently am writing this at Scotia Wildlife Sanctuary where I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with Numbat surveys. It’s been really special seeing Numbats in the wild and the amazing birdlife up here.
What are your long-term goals in the science field?
I would love to continue working towards hands-on conservation of Australia’s wildlife. I hope to continue working in field-based roles so that I can expand my knowledge of Australian fauna and flora and be able to contribute towards our collective understanding of our incredible Australian ecosystems. There is still so much to learn about our environment, especially as it responds to climate change and other disturbances. Working with the AWC science team who are all so passionate about what they do has also boosted my optimism that we may be able to save our endangered species and one day reintroduce them to unfenced areas, therefore I would like to make a small contribution towards these goals in my career.
How did you hear about AWC’s science program? What enticed you to apply?
I actually heard about the AWC through a friend who took part in the internship about 3 years ago and is now completing her PHD in land clearance. During her internship, she would send me pictures of all the beautiful endangered species she was working with. She loved her time at AWC and found it incredibly valuable for her career so when I mentioned I was thinking of applying she was really encouraging. She was so excited for me when I told her I’d been successful.
What were some of your expectations going in?
I was hoping I might get a chance to learn some fauna surveying skills and gain a better understanding of what goes into managing AWC’s ambitious conservation projects. Having only done flora surveys before I wasn’t expecting that I would have a chance to be so actively involved in most surveys that were scheduled during my time here and be able to work so independently.
Have any elements of the program surprised you?
What I couldn’t foresee was how inspiring it would be to be surrounded by so many passionate ecologists who care so deeply about Australia’s wildlife and are happy to share their knowledge. I also wasn’t expecting to have such a diverse range of experiences, owing to the breadth of the AWC science program, and the staff, who always ensured I was getting the most out of my internship experience.
Have you completed any other science internships? If so, how does this one differ?
This was my first internship.
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?
Doing Barking Owl surveys in the Pilliga I got a chance to see my first ever Barking Owl! Standing in the forest with the stars shining through the trees in complete silence listening to every faint noise in the distance, I was able to reflect and feel incredibly grateful to be working in such a beautiful environment. Then we began to hear a distant barking call which got louder until a woosh of wings above us signalled the arrival of the caller. To see a species which is currently declining as we speak was very special but also very motivating to see a species that needs our help more than ever.
Would you recommend it to others interested in science-led conservation and why?
I’d absolutely recommend it to anyone passionate about wildlife. Besides having enjoyed my time at AWC, I have also gained a wealth of experience in fauna survey techniques which I hope will be beneficial for my career.