Meet AWC’s interns: Salvino Mamo

Josh Hungerford/AWC

AWC offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Salvino Mamo shares his experiences below.

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

I started my internship at the end of January and I’m absolutely loving it. After travelling to WA from regional NSW, I was launched straight into the Mt Gibson Bilby spotlighting survey and it hasn’t slowed down since. I’ve trapped Greater Stick-Nest Rats, travelled to Faure Island to monitor Shark Bay Mice and been involved in the Chuditch reintroduction to Mt Gibson. It’s very easy as an intern to feel like an imposter because I am surrounded by so many amazing ecologists with a wealth of knowledge and experience, but everyone I’ve met and worked with has been so supportive and encouraging of me to practice and develop my new skills. I’m very grateful to have been exposed to multiple learning opportunities that would otherwise take me years to be exposed to. I’ve found there’s no better environment to learn than out in the field.

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

I would love to continue working in conservation and reintroductions throughout Australia. With a practical and applied approach to conservation, it’s easy to see the positive difference you are making for wildlife. Working with threatened fauna throughout this internship has shown me just how much there is to do in terms of rewilding Australia, but also how much has already been done and the methods that have worked. Along with my passion for wildlife, I’m very interested in fire ecology and collaboration with Indigenous peoples and cultures, so I’d love to work towards combining these passions throughout my career. With so many challenges to conserving our unique fauna and their habitats, I want to contribute what I can to finding the solutions and practicing them on the ground.

Radiotracking quolls at Mt Gibson Sanctuary. Salvino Mamo/AWC
Radiotracking quolls at Mt Gibson Sanctuary.

How did you hear about AWC’s science program?

In my second year of university, I did a google search around jobs and internships in conservation and fell upon the AWC website and internship page. I was immediately intrigued by the internship opportunity and started to learn more about the science program within AWC.

What enticed you to apply?

After some exposure to academia and environmental consulting, I was keen to try my hand at the practical implementation of conservation for threatened species. I always loved the idea of fully immersing myself in an environment where conservation is the number one priority and thought it would be a great learning opportunity for me to build skills in the field. I was keen to explore new places and learn more about the wildlife and environments that are so unique to Australia.

Releasing a quoll after checking its health at Mt Gibson. Salvino Mamo/AWC
Releasing a quoll after checking its health at Mt Gibson.

What were some of your expectations going in?

I was stoked to be told I would be living on site at Mt Gibson Sanctuary and be involved with the Western Quoll (Chuditch) reintroduction. I knew I’d be living and working in a completely different environment to anything I’d experienced before, and working with amazing species that I’d never seen, so I tried to throw myself into this experience with an open mind, ready to develop as an ecologist. I expected to meet some amazing people and learn new techniques and strategies that would help me build knowledge and experience. Knowing that I had the opportunity to be exposed to novel methods and practices was something I relished, and so I just prepared to soak up as much as I could.

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

The levels of independence you are entrusted with while working in the field or in the office has been something that I didn’t expect but has been very positive. Being an intern and having a level of autonomy really helps you gain confidence and grow as an ecologist. Once you have learned a task and others trust your ability to complete it independently, it forces you to take ownership of it as other people are relying on you. I am supported enough to feel like I am playing an active role in the team and have learnt so much from so many knowledgeable ecologists.

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

In 2021 I completed an internship with an environmental consultancy in regional NSW, in conjunction with my university. My time with AWC has been different in the number of field skills I have developed and accumulated in such a short period of time. I think this comes with living on site and being exposed to field work almost every day, as well as overcoming the challenges that come with working remotely. Working in team environments that are fast paced and need to be flexible, like working on translocations, has helped me to develop a greater confidence in my ability to work through changing situations.

Setting up a track plot on Faure Island used to find the tracks of the Djoongari (Shark Bay Mouse). Josh Hungerford/AWC
Setting up a track plot on Faure Island used to find the tracks of the Djoongari (Shark Bay Mouse).

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?

This is a tough question because I’ve had so many special moments, but it is definitely the Chuditch reintroduction. When I first heard that we would be translocating Chuditch to Mt Gibson I nearly fell off my chair, and the whole process has been nothing short of amazing. The single moment that I will never forget is the night we released individuals into their new home on sanctuary. I’m extremely grateful to have had the chance to play a small part in such a significant project. Giving Chuditch a chance to establish a population at Mt Gibson and persisting long into the future is so inspiring and this experience has fueled my desire to continue contributing to applied conservation. It’s something I’ll never forget.

Would you recommend it to others interested in science-led conservation and why?

I highly recommend this internship for anyone that is keen to get involved in research based, practical conservation. You are surrounded by like-minded people whose sole passion is to care for Australia’s wildlife and their habitats, so it’s an amazing learning environment. I’ve met so many people with different skills and backgrounds, and everyone has acted as a mentor to help me develop a range of skills. I think the practical element of the internship is so unique, AWC works to conserve so many species, and the range of projects you can be exposed to broadens your insight into the conservation solutions that are out there. I can’t recommend this internship enough for those that want to protect Australia’s wildlife in breathtaking places, learn new skills, and grow as a person and an ecologist in a supportive environment.

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