September 3, 2020
I’ve been a marsupial biologist, marine mammal scientist, conservation geneticist and documentary film presenter. My conservation career has taken so many interesting twists and turns from helping develop ways we can train Australia’s marsupials to cope with introduced predators, to being part of the teams that found and documented, for the first time, a very rare species of beaked whale, and discovered a previously unknown feeding ground hotspot for Antarctic blue whales. But what has really driven me is finding ways we can work together as a global community to address the biodiversity crisis that threatens our very existence. Part of that passion has been in science communication, using documentary film and video blogs to help everyday people feel part of the conservation work. But what if we could directly involve the public in conservation by giving them the tools to participate in our work? Just imagine what we could achieve in conservation with everyday people contributing to our datasets…not to mention helping people find that intrigue and connection with nature again.
When I stumbled upon a method that had been developed by a biomedical lab at McMaster University for the detection of bacteria in food and water….I knew this was it!!!! This had the potential to revolutionize the genetic detection of wildlife around the world and enable everyday people to be a big part of species monitoring! This idea was exactly what I had been looking for all along. I convinced my family, my supervisors, my friends and my professors, that this was an amazing opportunity to change the way we do conservation. The challenges have been immense. I moved to Canada, leaving behind a relationship, family, friends, my entire previous life. As an independent conservation scientist, I had to negotiate a completely new field for me, that of biomedical research and engineering. I also had to learn to convince a highly diverse group of stakeholders including top conservation scientists, top government conservation officials, top NGO leaders, that this was worth their support and their engagement. Today I have a network of some of the top organizations and scientists spanning 27 countries and 6 continents, and it continues to grow…..and I have a growing team of incredible people that are helping to make this dream a reality.
My biggest lesson throughout this journey has been to trust in my heart and be open to directions and paths I might never have considered. The journey has also shown me what we can achieve when you bring together people from all walks of life, that bring new skills, ideas and experiences.