Words by Dr Rochelle Steven
My journey with Landcare started in 2009 as an undergraduate student at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. My memory is a little sketchy, but I think the sequence of events went like this: another student came to an event run by the school I was enrolled with at uni or maybe it was even a lecture. They shared a story about a local Landcare project and the value of volunteering for students.
The value lies in the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the environmental field, specifically natural resource management, which many environmental undergraduates are destined to go on to work in post-degree. I remember their enthusiasm being infectious and learning about how important something as simple as hand-pulling weeds was for sites undergoing ecological restoration.
The Landcare site was Federation Walk Coastal Reserve at The Spit, a popular spot for locals and tourists. I was also familiar with the site, being a passionate local.
My first morning there was just three of us, all students – Naomi Edwards, Seb Clarke and myself. The three of us had a lovely morning in the sunshine chatting about uni life and the environment, and just general bonding while we pushed a wheelbarrow through the sand dunes, battling the shrubby growth to get to sections that needed some TLC.
I loved the feeling of giving something back, despite its simplicity and the time spent with like-minded people on a similar journey to my own. This first experience turned into some six years of volunteering, including lots of hands-on work onsite getting plants in the ground and leading bird walks through the reserve, through to assisting with the volunteer management committee. The benefits of being involved in such a project were diverse and far-reaching. My professional network was strengthened, and I learnt so many skills that have been invaluable since then.
Fast forward ten years and my contribution to Landcare continues.
After completing a PhD in Birdwatching and Conservation I am now a researcher in the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Recovery Hub. My current project is focused on the critically endangered western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) and a lot of what I do involves raising the awareness of the species conservation status among the community.
Landcare activities run through local catchment and conservation groups are a great way to share this information while getting outside and soaking up the energy the natural environment provides. Face to face engagement is the most effective way to share our research.
I would strongly suggest anyone to get involved with Landcare no matter what your personal or professional goals may be. You’ll never regret spending a day outdoors improving our natural environment, and you just never know where your journey might take you.
Follow Dr Rochelle Steven on Insta to get a backstage insight into her adventures @earthlywellbeing