Behind every incredible ecology project, there are incredible people – each with a story of passion and purpose that called them to stand up and fight for wildlife conservation!
Last post, we spoke with very-soon-to-be Dr Chris Pocknee, a PhD candidate who is finishing up his research focused on saving the Northern Bettong (part 1). Today, we follow Chris’s journey thus far and learn how he’s fast-tracked his success in wildlife conservation… let’s hop into it!
Now this certainly isn’t the case for everyone but Chris knew from way back in high school that he wanted to work with wildlife. But he wasn’t sure what that job looked like.
Fast forward to university and Chris has enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Ecology & Conservation Biology followed by a Masters project researching optimal survey techniques for Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo, an obscure “monkey-like” fluffball with a face like a bear. Cool right? Tell me about it!
Not only did this give Chris hours and hours of opportunities watching these arboreal fluffballs from different angles, but it also gave him his first taste in research and certainly “wet the palate” for further studies. But first, Chris wanted to spend more “hands on” time in the field building his skills and experience, so he accepted an internship with Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Immersing himself in his internship solidified his interest in the interface between ecology and conservation, between research and management – an exciting space where the “the magic” happens for wildlife conservation. Only 2 weeks after the end of his internship, Chris was heading up a PhD project focused on saving the Northern Bettong at the research-management interface.
While all PhDs (especially PhDs during COVID!) can be stressful with steep learning curves, heavy responsibilities and many problems to solve, the process of overcoming adversity becomes a highlight and opened some incredible opportunities and outcomes for the project.
Highlights of the project? “Proving to yourself that you can do it, seeing something through from inception to completion”, reflects Chris, “and working with Traditional Owners, walking through country together and listening to different ways of interpreting the habitat”
Chris is looking to submit his PhD and continue working in applied conservation management. Although the Northern Bettongs will always hold a special place in his heart, he is early in his career and is keen to broaden his experience further. After all, he can always hop back into the bettong work down the track!
You wanna talk about fast-tracking your career in wildlife conservation? Chris is a perfect example, having been pedal to the metal from day one.
Advice for working in wildlife
Most of Chris’ advice for young ecologists was focused around being open to learning throughout your journey. Chris said:
“Throughout undergrad, there are so many opportunities to make the most of by asking questions, testing the waters and being willing and open to learning“
“When applying for an internship, be open and humble about your inexperience but highlight your willingness to learn and build your skills”
“If you’re thinking about a PhD, know your why and wait for the right project – that is, if you’re not 100 % sold on your project hold out for one that you are. After all, your passion is paramount in the direction and outcome of your PhD journey”
One thing I take away from Chris’ story is to be brave and keep pushing yourself to try new things and develop new skills outside your existing experiences, outside your comfort zone. After all, that’s where the magic happens!
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