Claire Nelson (pronouns: she/her) has a life full of animals! During the day, she works as an ecological consultant, and when she goes home, she continues to care for the sick and injured wildlife brought into WIRES from all over New South Wales, Australia. WIRES or Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service is a not-for-profit wildlife rescue service established in 1985, caring for wild animals brought in by the community until they can be released.
Claire shares her experience within the wildlife space, as a wildlife carer and ecologist, as well as advice for anyone looking to take a similar career path. The first thing Claire said when we caught up – was that there is no straightforward path in this industry, but saying yes to opportunities as they present themselves is a pretty good place to start!
For Claire, believing that there is a straightforward path towards a career with wildlife is challenging because in her experience, there are so many different avenues you can take to step into this space. But for Claire, it all started with WIRES – something that her parents always did and so as she grew up, Claire was surrounded by animals!
“So, my entire life I’ve always lived with rescued animals – from penguins to flying foxes frogs and even a feathertail glider once!”
Throughout her childhood and into high school, it was always animals for Claire and when it came to making career decisions, she enrolled in animal courses at university – first in animal and veterinary bioscience which she pivoted from into wildlife. Claire explains how she made the decision to switch:
“I had to think about it and choose where to dedicate my time. I think some people jump into a course and feel they have to finish it. But just give it a go (or you’ll never know!)”
Claire continued on to do a masters focused on Caribbean lizard behaviour before graduating and taking a job in ecological consulting. Throughout her journey, Claire has dedicated all her spare time to the care of WIRES rescue animals.
Claire is passionate about saying yes to opportunities and pushing aside imposter syndrome (as hard as that can be!) to give yourself the best chance of success in life and in your wildlife career.
“I feel like it’s easy to think that you’re the only person with imposter syndrome and you hear that other people have it, but you don’t really believe it. But you speak to anyone, even CEOs, and they’ve struggled with self-doubt and – and so knowing this, don’t let it stop you!”
GAINING EXPERIENCE THROUGH CONSULTANCY
Working in ecological consultancy is a great way to gain paid experience as a graduate and dip your toes in a whole variety of ecosystems and field techniques. Definitely worth considering if you’re nearing the end of your time at university and looking to gain practical work experiences. Claire gives some insight –
“With my current role, you don’t necessarily need a master’s. I think most people have a bachelor’s a few of us have a Masters and one has a PhD. It’s a great starting point because you learn skills in the field as well as in the office, writing proposals and reports.”
The other big plus of working with consultancies is the respect for your work-life balance, and the flexibility in schedules.
“As long as you show up reliably and do your 37 and a half hours each week, they are usually pretty flexible – at least that’s been my experience!”
HELPING WIRES AND WILDLIFE CARING
If you are based in New South Wales, Australia, WIRES operates state-wide and relies heavily on a network of dedicated volunteers who care for sick and injured wildlife until they are healthy and can be released. Of course, there are roles as wildlife carers but Claire explains there are so many other capacities in which you can help out:
“I think a lot of people get overwhelmed thinking they don’t have enough time to look after too many animals. But you don’t even have to look after the animals to help out”
WIRES need drivers, outreach people, science communicators, event organisers, and so many other roles filled so there is bound to be something that fits your schedule and interests! Claire says –
“If you wanna join WIRES, there will definitely be a branch near you!”
KEEP IN TOUCH
Want to hear more from Claire? Tune into the podcast to listen to our conversation. You can follow her adventures and wildlife photography on Instagram @claire.mvn and find out more about the amazing work done by volunteers at WIRES – and how you can be a part of it too at their website.
What do you think? why not let us know or follow along for the adventure!
We’d love to hear from you! ✨