Featured Rewildologist: Susie Stockwell
I am a field ecologist, about to start a new role with Birdlife Australia supporting the Western Ground Parrot project, a threatened species on the south coast of Western Australia which I am super excited to jump into. Other than that, I am a science communicator and creator of the platform #itsawildlife, a blog and podcast dedicated to supporting people on their journey to work their dream job in wildlife science or conservation.
Birds, scicomm, podcasting, and blogs. We love it! How did you get into so many different aspects of conservation?
I wasn’t one of those people who had a clear idea that this was what I would do with life. When I left school, I was kinda all over the place – with no idea who I was, where I wanted to go – and no one to suggest how to start figuring that out.
Serendipitously, during a humpback whale survey, camped on the pindan cliffs of the beautiful Kimberley coastline, I felt a strong purpose and pull for the first time, and changed my degree from nursing to study conservation ecology.
From here, I slowly started to feel my way through the industry – and after years of volunteering, I started to land dream job after dream job:
Guiding whale shark swims, working as a research assistant in Kakadu National Park, interning with threatened species in old-growth mallee woodlands within a feral-proof fence, chopper-ing around the Kimberley, working on surveys, fighting fires and taking bird tours.
That’s the more glamorous side of the “wildlife industry” and while we love living and working in remote locations, working for important conservation outcomes, there are some less-glamorous aspects I feel strongly about changing – the high competition for limited funding, degradation of work-life balance and other pressures like low pay, long hours, contract instability and lack of support, especially for entry-level biologists – I see these challenges as accepted parts of the industry when they probably don’t need to be and I am all about breaking down barriers to entry and retention in this field.
For this purpose, I created a blog and podcast #itsawildlife, largely to support people on their journey to work their dream job in wildlife science or conservation (and to combat some of the eco-guilt I feel, growing up in a world of broad-scale biodiversity loss and climate change).
Note: As an Australian, I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands we live and work on and the role they play in shaping and caring for country, and pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. I feel so grateful for the opportunities and support I received throughout my journey and also want to acknowledge the privileges I had being able to pursue higher education and volunteer on projects to gain experience. My goal is to help people pursue this career path, whether they have these opportunities or not.
First of all, I would preface this question by acknowledging here is so much good advice out there for those who ask around (that’s definitely something I would recommend).
From my experience, I would recommend taking the following steps when starting out, or whenever you feel stuck or stagnant in your career:
- Take time to think about your goals – what would your life look like (feel like) if you already had that dream role? Think about steps you can take today to step into that life. I would 100 % recommend taking time to reflect, visualise and journal for best results.
- Take opportunities as they present themselves to build your skills, experience and network – you never know where they might lead!
- Try to enjoy the journey and put your best foot forwards, even when things feel uncertain or challenging. I like to tell myself that what’s meant for me won’t miss me. Might sound a bit woo but it always helps me trust the process and enjoy the journey. It doesn’t have to be that but I would recommend finding something that works for you to maintain your confidence during times of uncertainty or waiting.
Thank you so much for your time, Susie!
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