Samantha Ryan

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 Principal Conservation Officer Sam Ryan

Sam is part of our QPWS Threatened Species Recovery team and ever since she was young, dreamed of doing paid work in a field she loved. She’s now living that dream.

Sam was lucky enough to have a father figure who was an amazing bird and camping enthusiast, with a contagious passion for nature. ‘He instilled in me a love for birds and wildlife that has stayed with me throughout my life,’ Sam said.

As a mature-aged student, Sam said she enrolled in university with the goal of working with wildlife.

‘I carefully selected courses that I believed would help me achieve this objective and, in my spare time, I volunteered for surveys of threatened species which heightened my interest in the field even more.

‘Through my studies and volunteer work, I discovered a deeper love and passion for wildlife conservation and I am now more determined than ever to make a positive impact in this area.’

QPWS Principal Conservation Officer Sam releasing a bridled nail-tailed wallaby.

For Sam, a typical day as principal conservation officer includes balancing multiple tasks. ‘I draft recovery planning documents that involve various stakeholders, while also participating in fieldwork with threatened species, such as the northern hairy-nosed wombats and bridled nail-tailed wallabies. The combination of desk-based research and hands-on fieldwork, provides me with a well-rounded understanding of the conservation challenges facing these species and the steps necessary for their recovery.’

‘In my career, one of my most memorable moments was encountering a northern hairy-nosed wombat in daylight hours. It is such a rare event that even the wombat expert with 30 years of experience had not witnessed. These wombats are typically nocturnal and if they are active during the day, they usually run down a burrow at the sound of approaching footsteps. However, I managed to capture the moment and it was later shared on the Queensland National Parks and Queensland Environment social media pages. This once-in-a-lifetime experience solidified my love and appreciation for this unique and beautiful species.’

Sam has taken any challenges in her stride.

‘Change is inevitable and it's important to be adaptable. Although change can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, keeping an open mind can lead to a rewarding outcome. I believe I am currently in an area with colleagues that are committed to making a difference, and that’s rewarding. I hope to play a small part in preserving these precious creatures for future generations to enjoy.’

‘In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of equality in the workplace. While significant progress has been made, there have historically been instances where I was given responsibilities that were not aligned with my qualifications or job role. I have found that having open and respectful discussions with those responsible can often help to resolve these issues, but there are resources available for individuals who experience inequality in the workplace.’

For those women considering a career in science, even if later in your life, Sam’s tip is:

"Making a career change later in life can be challenging, but it is important to stay focused on your goals. Age and gender should not be a barrier to pursuing your passions and interests. In fact, both can bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table."

‘Try not to fear people treating you with bias for being female, as the ratio of women is high in many fields and it is common for there to be more women than men. I have found that gender hasn’t been a factor in determining success or opportunities in my workplace, with the focus being on skills, qualifications, and experience.

‘Volunteering and getting hands-on experience can help to build skills and knowledge, and demonstrate your commitment to your new career path.

‘By staying focused on your goals and being proactive in your efforts, you can overcome any negativity and succeed in your new career, regardless of your age or gender.’