Royal National Park lies between the southern suburbs of Sydney and the northern suburbs of Wollongong. With the park's beautiful natural scenery of sandy beaches and flower-sprinkled heathlands, its superlative biological diversity, and its rich Aboriginal cultural and European historical heritage, Royal National Park is a special place for many people. Park ranger Jessica Herder spends her time protecting the Royal's natural and cultural heritage and managing the millions of people that visit the park each year.
'I'm part of a team of five full-time and two part-time rangers which protects Royal and Heathcote national parks and Garawarra State Conservation Area. We monitor the facilities provided for visitors and organise maintenance projects, as well as write environmental assessments for any major works that occur in the park,' she says. But her duties don't stop there.
'Every day is different,' says Jessica. 'I could be removing weeds and planting natives with our volunteers or explaining to people why they've just been swooped by a magpie or how beneficial it is to have bandicoots digging up their lawn. As a trained fire fighter I can be sent to help fight bushfires in any of our eastern states. I also manage pest species using fox baiting programs and participate in a deer control program.'
Jessica's favourite jobs include coordinating and undertaking biodiversity surveys. 'I get to see and handle lots of amazing animals, many of them nocturnal, like the tiny, vulnerable eastern pygmy-possum.' She also enjoys keeping a watchful eye on the habitat of the endangered broad-headed snake.
Jessica's been a park ranger for about two years. Before working at Royal National Park, Jessica was part of an Aboriginal Ranger Cadetship program. The program allowed her to study Environmental Science full-time at Wollongong University and in the Christmas holidays complete work experience as a ranger. Her work placements were carried out at Botany Bay National Park where her work included looking after the little tern colony that migrates to Towra Spit each year to nest.
'I don't really have a favourite part of the park; different areas are good for different activities. I have a lot of fond memories from my childhood camping at Bonnie Vale and hiring row boats in Audley.'