I have volunteered for a variety of projects, which has provided me with many wonderful memories and rewarding experiences. I have enjoyed the challenge of working in remote locations, having atypical time schedules (e.g. working from dusk till dawn the next day to spot frogs) and doing tasks that most people (except myself) would consider unpleasant.
Here you will find accounts of my most treasured and memorable experiences – such as walking through leach infested swamps and running from large beastly seals. I have also learnt the value of a good quality mosquito spray and sturdy tent.
Cetacean Ecology Research in the Maldives
Research assistant, 2013
I assisted in a three-week whale research expedition organised by the Behaviour and Evolution Lab at Flinders University. Here, I helped with the collection of whale and dolphin biopsy samples, data recording and photo-identification.
Southwest Whale Ecology Study
Research assistant, 2010 and 2012
I volunteered for the 2010 and 2012 whale watching season organised by the Southwest Whale Ecology Study (SouWest) in Geographe Bay, Western Australia. I have been trained to use equipment for tracking the movement of whales. We use a theodolite to pinpoint the exact co-ordinates of whales passing by Geographe Bay and record their behaviour. I also assisted on a small boat to collect skin biopsy samples of Blue whales in this area for genetic analysis based at Flinders University, Adelaide.
Leopard seal research program at Primavera Station, Western Antarctic Peninsula
Research assistant, 2009
I went to the Western Antarctic Peninsula to assist research conducted by my supervisor on leopard seals. We were very successful over this 2 month field season.
We deployed satellite tags on a number of leopard seals to determine their home range and migration patterns. We also collected scat samples, hair and blood samples to be used for other projects.
Our research group suspects that leopard seals may specialise in particular types of prey – with some leopard seals staying close to penguin colonies, while others eat seals. To test this, we plucked a whisker from sedated leopard seals on the pack ice. These whiskers will be used to measure chronological changes in the animal’s stable isotope ratios that provide an indication of diet. This will allow us to determine whether individuals have picky diets or eat a range of food.
Frog conservation in Murray Darling Basin, Sydney
Fieldwork volunteer, 2009
I assisted PhD candidate Jo Ocock with her fieldwork to assess frog abundance and distribution in the Murry Darling Basin. This involved conducting frog abundance estimates using transects through swamps and ponds as well as collecting body size measurements of any tadpoles we found. Most of our work was conducted at night when the frogs were most likely to be active and chirping.
Sydney rock oyster and Pacific oyster distribution and abundance program at Port Stephens, Sydney
Fieldwork volunteer, 2008
When I met Emma Wilkie, she was developing sustainable management practices for oyster aquaculture in Australia for her PhD at Macquarie University. I had the pleasure of helping her set up some of her experiments to assess the ecological impact of the non-native Pacific oyster on the establishment of native Sydney rock oysters in Port Stephens, NSW.
As a volunteer, I helped count the assemblage of different invertebrates and algae growing on cement plates Emma had placed on rocky shores and mangroves where many of the oysters grew. These cement plates provided an artificial environment to see what kind of species would establish and proliferate. Emma found that farming disease resistant oysters and non-native oysters did not show any negative impacts on the environment.