Meet AWC’s interns: Sophia Jackson

Peter Hammond/AWC

AWC offers opportunities for promising graduate students to gain valuable conservation field experience via our Internship Program. Current intern, Sophia Jackson, shares her experiences below.

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

I began my internship in February 2023, and I’ll finish mid-July. It is mind-blowing that it is already almost over. My time here in the Central South region has flown – I’m catching boodies (Burrowing Bettong) one week, spotlighting for bilbies the next, and then trekking through the Flinders’ Ranges to catch rock wallabies after that. It has been an exciting opportunity to build my confidence in the field.

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

My priority is to work in conservation with teams and organisations who are passionate about building solutions to the climate and extinction crises. Long-term, my goal is to use what I’ve learned at university and in the field to be as involved in conversation solutions. I am very excited by translocations with goals of rebuilding functioning ecosystems.

Sophia at the entry gate to Buckaringa Wildlife Sanctuary, South Australia. AWC
Sophia at the entry gate to Buckaringa Wildlife Sanctuary, South Australia.

How did you hear about AWC’s science program?

I became aware of the AWC during my undergraduate degree where examples such as cat research and conservation methods (like fencing) were referenced in lectures.

What enticed you to apply?

I applied to learn what conservation-driven research programs looked like. Also, I wanted to explore and learn about ecosystems and regions of Australia that were different to where I studied. My time and Yookamurra, Dakalanta, and Scotia have made me fall in love with the mallee communities and appreciate how varied they were just between these three sanctuaries. I also have gotten to visit the Flinders’ Ranges at Buckaringa and will be going to Newhaven in July.

Sophia with a juvenile Boodie (Burrowing Bettong) AWC
Sophia with a juvenile Boodie (Burrowing Bettong)

What were some of your expectations going in?

My expectations going into this was to meet likeminded scientists who are passionate about conservation and learn about new species and ecosystems. I was also excited to be fully immersed in the field, living inside of the fence, and centering my life around conservation research.

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

I have been lucky enough to go to five different sanctuaries, with neither Scotia or Newhaven on my initial schedule. It’s really exciting to explore so many areas of the country and has been such a nice surprise.

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

I have completed two research assistantships that were both about two months long. This internship with the AWC has been much more organised than any other program that I have participated in. It also has felt that all of the staff here were keen to support me in expanding my repertoire of practical field skills. I felt like my learning was really valued, whether I was microchipping Bettongs or taking my 4WD course.

Face-to-face with a Murray-Darling Carpet Python during a spotlight survey. AWC
Face-to-face with a Murray-Darling Carpet Python during a spotlight survey.


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?

I’ve had some very unique and exciting wildlife encounters that will stick with me for a long time; there are special moments that you only get when you spend such an extended time with the wildlife. At Buckaringa, a pair of Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby approached me while I was doing an observation count in the creek bed. When they finally saw me, they hopped up the slope and then sat above me and observed me back for the rest of the survey. Another incredible encounter was seeing the Murray-Darling Carpet Python during a spotlighting survey. It was sitting on the fence calmly waiting for the next unsuspecting boodie to hop into its mouth. It was HUGE!

 

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

I would highly recommend this internship to anyone who wants to be involved in conservation research. It’s amazing to be surrounded by experienced conservation scientists and engage in well-intentioned debates about the future of conservation. It’s an incredible opportunity for anyone interested in conservation science to determine what they are specifically interested in and looking for in a career.

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