Feel inspired by our women in parks
What better way to celebrate women and girls in science EVERY DAY (not just on the international day itself) than to highlight the work of some amazing women within Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS).
Meet Conservation Officer Maree Rich
Maree is part of our QPWS Central Region pest team and helps deliver high priority projects for the region, including the conservation of threatened species on parks where pests are the main threat to their survival.
Since 2012, Maree has been involved in a project to conserve the greater bilby at Astrebla Downs National Park, a remote park situated east of Bedourie in western Queensland. Maree and the team actively control feral cats (a major bilby predator) and sometimes wild dogs, to promote the wild bilby population on park. Maree likes that ‘this level of predator management also helps protect other threatened species that live on the park, such as the kowari and plains-wanderer.’
Growing up, Maree was destined to become a Ranger—having had a very active and outdoor lifestyle with lots of camping and time spent in nature. She really enjoyed biology at high school and chose to study a Bachelor of Science in Australian Environmental Studies at Griffith University.
While at Griffith University, Maree volunteered at Diamantina National Park, helping Rangers with jobs like fencing, sign painting and building maintenance. While there, she also undertook a small research project on the vegetation and salinity of a large claypan as part of her third-year studies.
‘I think that helped me realise that whilst I had the practical skills to be a Ranger, I also enjoyed the challenge of asking questions about the environment and trying to work out what was going on using various monitoring techniques,’ said Maree.
From Ranger to conservation officer
‘When I started as a casual Ranger in the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) Longreach office in 2002, my ‘typical day in the office’ was in a shed where for 6 weeks I routed and painted timber board signs before the Rangers collected them to install on park.
‘A day in the field was quite variable, including tasks like participating in fauna and flora surveys, spotlighting for small furry critters, inspecting parks for weed or pest animal impacts, flying around in planes or helicopters surveying for woody weeds or vertebrate pests, spraying woody weeds and helping Rangers with day-to-day activities like painting signs, cleaning toilets or fixing fences.
‘These days, post-motherhood and since becoming part of the pest management team, I spend far less time in the field. Now, my day usually involves some sort of data—entering it, making sense of it, mapping it and/or reporting on it. I also look for information to answer questions like appropriate monitoring methods, problem-solving pest control options for specific parks or drafting pest management documents to support the work Rangers do on park.
‘Because I don’t travel as much now for work, I find that I really appreciate the parks that I get paid to visit and work at. Every field trip seems to have special moments where I’m often thinking—what else would I do in life if I didn’t do this job?… and I can’t think of a better place to be or work.
‘The people often make the workplace for me, especially working in remote environments where you need to be able to trust your work mates to be part of a safe and functional team. Problem solving issues like a lack of power or drinking water at a remote base or a car that’s stopped going is usually better solved with two or more heads put together!
‘I enjoy the sunsets in the big sky country and make sure I take the time each day to sit still and watch the colours change around me as the sun sets.’
Maree feels fortunate to be leading fellow conservation enthusiasts by example and has been fortunate to not have experienced any gender-based obstacles throughout her career.
‘As women, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to judging ourselves and other women. We need to become better advocates for each other, recognising women will bring different strengths to the table. At the end of the day, we are all part of the same team (along with our menfolk), and we’ll need to work together to make those changes for the better.
‘I do recognise though, in some aspects of being a Ranger, that physical strength is needed but sometimes the same outcomes can be achieved by thinking about the task and applying a different method—such as using mechanical advantage and the laws of physics. We are all able to work smarter when it comes to the more physical aspects of the job.’
Maree’s tip for any women considering a career in science:
"If you are persistent and consistent in doing what you love to do, you will find a niche for yourself."