AWC offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Current intern, Lily Ahlemeyer shares her experiences below.
When did you start your internship? How are you finding it?
I started my internship in early July 2023, and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I moved from Tasmania to Southwest WA to live onsite at Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary. I have since been surrounded by Quenda (Western Brown Bandicoots), Woylies (Brush-tailed Bettongs), and Tammar Wallaby, their feet rustling around the house at night. I’ve trapped Black-flanked Rock-wallabies at Paruna, explored Mt Gibson while radiotracking the recently translocated Chuditch (Western Quoll), travelled to Faure Island to trap Djoongari (Shark Bay Mice), and waded through the dams of Karakamia catching South-western Snake-necked Turtles. During my time, I have been especially grateful for my wonderful team, from their exceptional teaching skills to their inspiring passion and kindness.
What enticed you to apply?
My field experience during my degree was significantly impacted by the pandemic and I was seeking an opportunity to hone my fieldwork skills while contributing to broad-scale practical conservation projects. I love the tangibility of AWC’s work, that rewarding feeling of seeing the physical impact of your day-to-day efforts. I also love being immensely proud of the work I do and who I work with.
What are your long-term goals in the science field?
Wherever I end up in my career, I want to contribute to improving conservation outcomes for threatened species. To imagine any of the species I have encountered during my time in WA disappearing from this world is heartbreaking. I’d love to continue being involved in practical, on-the-ground conservation efforts while also contributing to future ecological research. I am specifically interested in range shifts of species under climate change and have a soft spot for both marine and terrestrial ecology.
How did you hear about AWC’s science program?
I heard about AWC’s science program while I was studying an Environmental Science degree in Melbourne. I was inspired by AWC’s broad-scale, practical conservation work and it immediately became a dream of mine to work with them. After completing my degree and working as an outdoor guide for two years, I was accepted into the program and have been living the dream ever since!
What were some of your expectations going in?
Travelling across the Nullarbor to WA I was incredibly excited to commence my internship and meet my team. Coming from Tasmania I expected to be surrounded by unfamiliar species and to quickly learn as much as possible about them. I anticipated gaining a greater understanding of Australian conservation efforts and being incredibly proud of who I worked for. My fieldwork expectations have been well and truly exceeded throughout my internship. Above all, the connections I have developed and the support I have received from my team are beyond anything I could have imagined.
Have you completed any other science internships? If so, how does this one differ?
I completed an internship/industrial traineeship with the CSIRO Atmosphere and Oceans department which was an incredible introduction to the marine science field. This was predominantly research based in comparison to the AWC internship which has a big mix of fieldwork and varied office-based tasks.
Would you recommend it to others interested in science-led conservation and why?
I will be recommending this internship to anyone interested in conservation for the foreseeable future. Not only does it provide comprehensive training for anyone looking to enter the field of ecology, but it also creates an avenue to lifelong connections with like-minded people. From engaging in tangible conservation efforts to working with expert ecologists and dedicated mentors, being an AWC intern is an experience I will never forget.
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 remember the first time I held a Chuditch (Western Quoll) when we captured one during mammal trapping at Mt Gibson. It was the first time I had ever handled one and it was so warm in my lap. We had a peek at its gorgeous spots, and I made all sorts of embarrassing excited noises. We later identified it as ‘Inspector Gadget’, one of the Chuditch recently translocated from Perup in the Southwest of WA. It was so special to see it surviving in its new home and to feel it’s warm, healthy fur against my hand.
What were elements of the program have surprised you so far?
The level of support and collaboration in my team has been a wonderful surprise. Right from the start I felt very welcome at AWC and have met so many knowledgeable people willing to teach and support me in learning new skills. I am also in awe of the scale at which AWC operates and the level of collaboration it has achieved. Travelling between the four AWC sanctuaries in Southwest WA has given me immense hope for wildlife conservation in Australia.