Meet AWC’s interns: Christina Paizis

Jack Bilby/AWC

Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Current intern, Christina Paizis, shares her experiences below.

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

I started my internship in early January and so far I’m finding it incredibly rewarding. It’s a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in wildlife conservation. The work is challenging but fulfilling, and every day brings new learning experiences, from mammal trapping and handling to preparing reports and processing data. The team is supportive and knowledgeable, and I’m gaining valuable insights into the practical aspects of conservation. This internship is not only enhancing my skills but also deepening my passion for protecting Australia’s unique wildlife.

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

My long-term goals in the science field are to contribute significantly to wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability. I aim to specialize in ecology and biodiversity, working on projects that protect endangered species and restore natural habitats. Specifically, I hope to focus on reintroduction programs for threatened species, captive breeding programs, and translocations. I also plan to engage in research that informs conservation policies and practices, particularly in developing effective wildlife corridors and improving genetic diversity. I ultimately aspire to become a leader in the field who advocates for the preservation of ecosystems and educates the public on the importance of protecting our biodiversity.

Christina processing a Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot). Tom Sayers/AWC
Christina processing a Quenda (Southern Brown Bandicoot).

How did you hear about AWC’s science program?

Through word of mouth from other ecologists from my university.

What enticed you to apply?

I applied for the internship with AWC because of their outstanding reputation in wildlife conservation. AWC is known for its innovative and effective conservation strategies, and their dedication to preserving Australia’s unique biodiversity is truly inspiring. The internship program is well-regarded for providing hands-on, practical experience in conservation work. It offers a unique chance to work in the field with experienced ecologist and learn about advanced conservation practices. The opportunity to contribute to AWC’s mission and gain valuable experience made this internship an ideal choice to start achieving my career goals.

What were some of your expectations going in?

Going into the internship, I expected to gain hands-on experience in wildlife conservation and learn about the daily operations of a conservation organization. I looked forward to working with the experienced AWC team, participating in mammal trapping, species monitoring, various field surveys, and animal translocations (specifically the Mt Gibson quolls!). I also hoped to understand the larger picture challenges in protecting endangered species and preserving biodiversity, rather than just the on-ground challenges. I expected to build valuable skills in field research and data collection, while contributing meaningfully to AWC’s conservation efforts.

Christina releasing a Woylie (Brush-tailed Bettong). Tom Sayers/AWC
Christina releasing a Woylie (Brush-tailed Bettong).

What were elements of the program that have surprised you so far?

Several elements of the program have pleasantly surprised me so far. The level of responsibility given to interns has been greater than I anticipated, allowing me to actively participate in key conservation activities. You are always made to feel like a staff member, even as an intern, and your contributions are valued accordingly. I was also surprised by (and grateful for) the strong sense of community and cohesiveness among the team, which has made the experience even more rewarding. The program’s emphasis on practical, hands-on learning and the support from the staff have exceeded my expectations.

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

Yes, I have completed a science traineeship with a local council as a bushland officer. That traineeship focused more on vegetation monitoring and habitat restoration, with tasks like plant identification, weed management, and revegetation projects. In contrast, this AWC internship emphasizes wildlife monitoring and conservation, often through fieldwork surveys such as animal trapping and translocations. Both experiences have been valuable, but the hands-on work with native fauna and the variety of conservation activities in this internship offers a unique and complementary perspective to my previous traineeship.

Christina releasing a Chudtich (Western Quoll). Robin Sinclair/AWC
Christina releasing a Chudtich (Western Quoll).

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?

One unique moment that stood out during my internship was visiting Faure Island in late January. The island’s stunning landscapes and biodiversity were incredible to experience firsthand. Seeing the successful reintroduction of native species on the island was truly inspiring (and I got to add Antaresia childreni to my reptile list). Another memorable experience has been encountering Morelia imbricata (Carpet Pythons) in my backyard at Karakamia. It’s a constant reminder of the amazing wildlife we are working to protect and the unique environment I get to be a part of every day.

Would I recommend this internship to others interested in science led conservation and why?

Yes, I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone interested in science-led conservation. It offers invaluable hands-on experience in wildlife monitoring and species conservation and provides countless opportunities to work closely with experienced ecologists. The supportive team environment and the chance to contribute to meaningful conservation efforts make it an exceptional learning experience. This internship has not only enhanced my knowledge and skills but also deepened my passion for protecting biodiversity. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone committed to making a difference in conservation.