Volunteer voices say: ‘Don’t hold back!’

Saving our Species (SoS) volunteers contribute to securing a diverse and rich natural environment for NSW in the future.

Volunteers help regenerate bushland across the state by helping with weeding and planting

They can learn about different species of plants and animals and work alongside like-minded people of all ages. Many SoS volunteers gain new skills and experience to complement their conservation studies. Some offer their own expertise to the SoS program. However, most SoS volunteer opportunities don’t require experience - just a keen eye and enthusiasm!

Typical SoS volunteer projects include field surveys and counts (e.g. shorebirds, flying foxes, koalas); monitoring night camera footage (Digivol, at home); assisting tagging and research; tree planting and bush care; weed control and fencing; administration assistance; community awareness and events.

Meet some of our SoS volunteers who have found their way to careers in ecology and science – or have simply gained joy and a sense of community through volunteering on threatened species projects.

Cat CampbellVolunteer: Cat Campbell

Volunteers at: Kosciuszko National Park

Threatened species: Mountain pygmy-possum

Studied: PhD in Wildlife Genetics, completed 2017

Works at: Post-doctoral research assistant at Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO

Also likes: Cooking, hiking, camping, running, kayaking and anything involving her dog.

Cat Campbell changed career in 2006 from managing fine dining restaurants in the hospitality industry to managing wildlife - and volunteering with the Mountain Pygmy-possum project helped her make the switch. 

Cat says, "The SoS Mountain Pygmy-possum project monitors and runs health checks annually on populations of this critically-endangered species.

"I am passionate about the alpine region – I live there too – and I got involved through the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre after hearing of the cat management going on around the pygmy possum habitat.

“Volunteering with SoS has given me the opportunity to make friends and to volunteer on other projects.

"Get involved in anything you can. It’s a fun way to learn new skills and meet people who can help you move forward in your career. Plus, you get to work with some of Australia’s most iconic species in the flesh."

Michael BogleVolunteer: Michael Bogle

Volunteers at: Nielsen Park, Sydney Harbour National Park

Threatened species: Nielsen Park she-oak through bush regeneration

Studied: History

Works at: An historian, specialising in Australian design history and the history of architecture

Also likes: writing, occasionally conducting lectures, study of feral animals

Michael Bogle is volunteering in bush regeneration, including assisting the endangered Nielsen Park she-oak project.

Michael says, “Our aim is to recover the natural bushland of this small park using a modified Bradley Method of selective weeding.

“Weeding on one’s knees puts you face-to-face with the details of nature!

“Bushland is rare in the inner suburbs, so any assistance for its preservation is a beckoning call. I’m particularly fond of Nielsen Park for its role in the preservation of Sydney’s foreshores – it’s a sacred site in that respect. As an historian, I also respond to the history of Nielsen Park including W.C. Wentworth’s connection.

“It has wonderful topography with so many unexpected views. Working in the bush is always rewarding, multi-sensory experience.

“I enjoy meeting other members of the team and our morning tea catch-ups. It simply makes for a great day in the bush, with Wi-Fi off.”

Madison CasleyVolunteer: Madison Casley

Volunteers at: Illawarra

Threatened species: Shorebirds and spotted-tailed quoll 

Studied: Bachelor of Science (Conservation Biology) at University of Wollongong; Graduate Certificate in Captive Vertebrate Management (Charles Sturt University)

Works at: Biodiversity and Wildlife Team (NPWS) in Wildlife Licensing at the Hurstville office in a temporary role.

Also likes: Playing netball, going to live music events, the local markets, catching up with friends, planning an overseas trip

Madison Casley grew up in Wagga Wagga but has been on an adventure through study, travel and volunteering for a plethora of threatened species since. 

Madison says, "I grew up in Wagga Wagga and then moved to Wollongong straight after high school to study. I also travelled and [at one point] I was juggling between studying, working at a cafe, and volunteering one day per week to complement my course!

“With my Shorebird Recovery Volunteer shirt on I got questions from locals –a fantastic opportunity to start a conversation with them about threatened species.

"I started off volunteering by signing up with the Shorebird Recovery Program which aims to reduce the impact of human or other activity on habitat and nesting sites. SoS’s Simon Tedder showed me the sites south of Wollongong so I could start surveying threatened shorebirds in the area (little tern, hooded plover, pied oystercatcher) to create nest protection if necessary and monitor nests to determine fledglings.

"I also became involved in the Quollidor project, going out in the field to service Spotted-tailed Quoll monitoring camera traps in the Barren Grounds-Budderoo region.

"Towards the end of last year, I volunteered with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), tagging camera trap images and assist with data analysis to monitor the impact of pest control in various national parks- home to threatened species like the brush-tailed rock-wallaby and plains-wanderer. I’ve gained new skills that have made me much more employable [and} I don’t mind being the first person to see some pretty amazing photos of wildlife when sorting through the camera trap images, either!"

Claire BremnerVolunteer: Claire Bremner

Volunteered at: Dubbo

Threatened species: Booroolong frog

Studied: (Current) Bachelor of Applied Science in Parks, Recreation and Heritage with a minor in wildlife and conservation through Charles Sturt University Albury Wodonga

Works: Part-time at a supermarket

Also likes: Regular gym visits, dabbling in weights and powerlifting (she likes to think she’s a bit like Wonder Woman at times)

Claire assisted the North Western Regional Office for SoS- based in Dubbo for few weeks late last year during her university summer break. 

Claire says, "I worked on a variety of things during my time with the SoS team and I soon learnt the job was quite diverse. The most exciting project I helped with was the Booroolong frog annual survey. These populations have deteriorated from chytrid fungus. The overall efforts to monitor the health and populations of the frogs and improve their habitat conditions also helps other species within the environment – a threatened species officer can be like a superhero saving the world.

“Don’t hold back! … No one is sad when working outside.

"I'd say I've learnt more than what I could learn out of a book by working alongside the SoS employees. The whole trip to do the frog project was a complete surprise on arrival to the office and I chose to go because it was based in my hometown. I had a personal connection to this place but I saw it from a completely different perspective. Out in the field we saw first-hand predation of frogs by a baby fox and yabbies defy gravity by climbing rocks on a near 45-degree angle. Many frogs were observed and there was an improvement since the year before.

"Get out there, get engaged. It's good to go somewhere completely out of your comfort zone and it's okay to ask lots of questions. Saving the environment involves working together, there's so much out there to do."

Paul Carmen and Cathy HookVolunteers: Paul Carmen and Cathy Hook

Volunteer at: near Bathurst NSW

Threatened species: Zieria obcordata plant

Studies: Paul - Associate Diploma in Horticulture; Cathy - BSc (Zoology/Geography)

Works at: Paul - Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) in Canberra; Cathy - revegetation, plant nursery and recently, full-time carer for her elderly parents

Also likes: Paul and Cathy are both regular subscribers to Canberra Symphony Orchestra concerts. Paul is also a jazz fan and Cathy is a keen bushwalker who also loves photography, bird watching, reading, maps, beaches and puzzles!

Paul Carmen and Cathy Hook’s involvement with the threatened plant species, Zieria obcordata began in January 2008. Paul was (and remains) an ANBG staff member and Cathy a volunteer.

Paul says, “Z. obcordata is only known to occur near Wellington and Bathurst in NSW, entirely on private property. In 2008, the only known population of this plant species at Wellington appeared to have experienced a very serious decline, and the ANBG undertook to ensure the survival of the population by protecting it away from its natural site. Cathy had been very keen to be involved in practical on-ground conservation work. Initially, our work produced plants for propagation and translocation.

“The longer we were involved, the more we found we wanted to keep coming back to follow the progress of the plants – and their habitat.

"We hope that through our volunteering we are ‘making a difference’, even if only in some small way, to one of our endangered species. It is immensely satisfying when a translocated plant that you have planted firstly grows, then seeds and finally produces progeny!

"We have had a few surprises along the way- one day we came across a plant which could possibly be a new species and is currently undergoing taxonomic identification. A less pleasant surprise was the loss of Cathy’s diamond-set wedding ring which she had put in her pocket for ‘safe-keeping’. A subsequent search with a metal-detector found no trace of it."
Ed: Hopefully this too will be rediscovered one day!