Meet AWC’s field team this World Ranger Day

29 Jul. 2021

On World Ranger Day, July 31, we celebrate and honour rangers around the world who dedicate their lives to protecting our planet’s cultural heritage and natural treasures.  

Approximately 80% of AWC staff are based in the field, living and working in some of Australia’s most remote areas to deliver effective conservation land management where it is most needed. This unique ‘boots on the ground’ approach sees more than 85% of operational expenditure incurred where it makes the greatest difference to Australia’s native species and their habitats – in the field.

What is it like for the dedicated individuals who chose this life, deployed in remote and challenging locations across Australia? In honour of World Ranger Day, we asked some of the AWC team to share their challenges, highlights and learnings from living and working at the front line of conservation…


Awc Sanctuary Maps All 01
Approximately 80% of AWC staff are based in the field at AWC sanctuaries and partnership areas, delivering effective conservation land management where it is needed most.



Grace Hornstra, Mallee Cliffs (NSW) 

Grace recently transitioned into the role of Field Ecologist at Mallee Cliffs National Park, in outback NSW, having spent more than two years as a Land Management Officer (LMO) on the Operations team. As an LMO her duties included feral predator monitoring, data collection (fulcrum) and assisting with reports, surveys and translocations.


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Grace undertook large-scale feral animal monitoring and managed hundreds of camera trap arrays in her role as Land Management Officer, helping to create mainland Australia’s largest feral predator-free area at Mallee Cliffs National Park in NSW.


What have been some highlights of your field work?

“I’ve had the privilege of assisting with harvests, translocations and surveys of Bilbies, Numbats, Greater Stick-nest Rats and Red-tailed Phascogales. Nothing is as fun as chasing down Numbats, nor as exciting as the anticipation you feel walking up to a closed Elliot trap, hoping for your target species.”


Are there any challenges?

“The biggest challenge is staying sane while working alone in the field, often for weeks on end, across large and remote areas. For a solid year during our initial feral eradication efforts, I was swapping SD cards and servicing between 60-100 motion triggered field cameras every week. Mallee Cliffs is now the site of the largest feral predator-free safe haven on the Australian mainland, so it was all worth it!” 


Rhiannon Khoury, Grace Hornstra
AWC Ecologist Rhiannon Khoury and Land Management Officer Grace Hornstra release a Bilby into the feral predator-free area at Mallee Cliffs National Park, following an extensive collaborative effort between AWC and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.


What are you working on now?

“I’m currently working on setting up the trapping array in our fenced area, and starting to write up our eradication success for hopeful publication. We are at a really exciting point in the Mallee Cliffs project and I’m just over the moon to be able to focus on the science full time in my new role!” 


What’s been your biggest learning so far?

“These projects don’t and can’t operate without both Science and Operations onboard. I studied and am passionate about ecology, and always wanted to be an ecologist, but working in Land Management first has really opened my eyes to the importance of each role and of working as a team.” 



Andrew Howe, north-east region

Andy is AWC’s Senior Field Ecologist for the north-east region, based in Cairns. He’s the lead ecologist for Curramore Wildlife Sanctuary and manages threatened species programs on other NE properties. Andy has been in this role for four years, but has worked with Australian wildlife for more than a decade – from urban koalas, to nesting sea turtles – and he has also run his own consultancy.

Learn more about Andy’s work via AWC in Conversation (S1E2) Blue Mountains Koala rescue and Brooklyn rainforest frog surveys.


Bowra Kanagroo Survey
Andy conducts a Kangaroo survey at Bowra Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, in his role as north-east Senior Field Ecologist.


What have been some highlights of your field work?

“I’m really privileged to visit some truly amazing places and encounter the spectacular wildlife that lives there. I feel a sense of accomplishment both in my personal work and in what we achieve as an organisation – effectively conserving species across the country, at scale. 

My days are incredibly varied, which I love! I could be running fauna or flora surveys, helicoptering with Traditional Owners into remote gorges to deploy camera traps, analysing data, writing reports, managing budgets, supervising staff, or training volunteers and interns in animal handling techniques.”  


Are there any challenges?  

“It can be hot, sweaty and dusty work! And while I really enjoy it, remote work is not for everyone. The biggest hurdle for me is being away from my family (and dog!) as we often go on field trips for 3-4 weeks with very limited communication home. But I truly believe that AWC is Australia’s leading organisation in conservation and that all the blood, sweat and tears is going towards making Country healthy again.” 


Andy undertakes long field trips to conduct scientific surveys throughout tropical north Queensland, working in some of Australia’s most remote and challenging corners.


What are you working on now? 

“It’s very busy in the north-east right now! We have a team of 8 ecologists based in the region and multiple surveys taking place. I’m currently planning targeted surveys at our Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary (Cape York) to look for three threatened species in various habitats, complete spotlighting transects for arboreal mammals and nocturnal birds, and assess wetlands for feral animal damage.  

This data then gets analysed and reported back to the sanctuary managers so they can adapt their land management strategies to better achieve desired our conservation outcomes. This may involve targeting feral animals (such as pigs) in particular areas, or changing the timing or intensity of fire management.” 


What’s been your biggest learning so far?

“The wet season in north Queensland can get pretty extreme… Cairns summers are HOT! But I prefer heat over cold, so I can’t complain too much… Otherwise, I was an AWC volunteer on and off for ten years prior to becoming an employee, so I already had a good idea of what was required.”



Amelia Quaife, the Kimberley 

Amelia is a Land Management Officer at Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the west Kimberley region, WA. New to AWC, she joined the team in April 2021. An average day for Amelia might involve fencing, weeding, managing feral animals or maintaining the property’s tracks, infrastructure and surrounding areas. 


Amelia works to maintain sanctuary infrastructure in her role as a Land Management Officer at Charnley River-Artesian Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley.


What have been some highlights of your field work?

“It’s been just over 3 months but I’m loving it! Working where people come for a holiday, to keep this beautiful Kimberley landscape as natural as possible, and help native fauna and flora flourish is very inspiring to me!”


Are there any challenges?

“Long hours in the sun – but I have an agricultural background so am used to this! I already had good knowledge of fencing, cattle behaviours, and experience using machinery such as tractors and generators, so I’ve been able to make a good contribution to land management jobs from the start.” 


What are you working on now?

“Fencing and weeding are priorities right now. After our morning meeting, and vehicle and gear checks, we head out for the day (and it may be a fair drive) to observe which fences need attention and where cattle are getting in, so we can re-fence and strain up.”  


What’s been your biggest learning so far?

“The general landscape has been an eye opener for me. I’ve learned a lot about the names of plants and animals and where they occur. Also, I wish I had prepared my car a bit better before heading up the Gibb River Road!”  



Thank you, rangers

AWC gratefully acknowledges the expertise, passion, commitment and bravery of all rangers and field staff working at the front line of conservation. We applaud our staff, volunteers and partners for their dedicated work in often remote and and challenging situations, far removed from family and loved ones, to help secure the future of Australia’s threatened species and habitats.

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Wayne Lawler/AWC
Wayne Lawler/AWC
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