Emma Rawling (BA)

Emma Rawling (BA)

Emma Rawling, (BA) completed a degree with majors in Celtic and Medieval Studies, and has had a career which at first glance seems remote from her studies, but really it all connects.

She had an interest in all things Celtic from high school years so her choice of University subjects was never in doubt. Her other main interest was always in animals, domestic pets and horses. After a period learning to be self-sufficient in a tepee in a forest in Tasmania, she travelled to Ireland to pursue her interests there. Here she worked at a small sanctuary for donkeys and this helped her decide that she wanted to work with animals. A forced repatriation with a broken leg (from a fall from a horse, naturally) gave her an opportunity to study Veterinary Nursing, which then enabled her to obtain a job with the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon, a major animal charity. She eventually managed a farm with over 500 animals.

The call of the Celtic was still there though and she decided to move to Scotland. Emma then undertook a Master’s degree in wildlife ecology and management at Napier University, with field work in Africa – zebras of course!

Since completing that degree she has worked with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Forestry Commission Scotland, a major Osprey breeding project, and other organisations. For the past three years she has been the Perthshire Ranger for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, managing a number of reserves, being responsible for another Osprey project and has been involved in the re-introduction of beavers into Scotland amongst a myriad of other activities. Living in Perthshire has enabled Emma to explore many medieval and earlier sites. There might be some standing stones and stone circles she has not yet visited.
Here she shares with us how her studies in Celtic and Medieval Studies have led her to this interesting career path.

1. What are your happiest memories about your time here as a student?
It’s a toss-up between the many happy times involving music in Manning Bar, and the many happy long hours lost in Fisher Library- it was the biggest library I’d ever seen and seemed a limitless world of information and resources- a bit like the internet today!

2. Who was your favourite Professor while you were a student at the University of Sydney and why?
Associate Professor John Pryor, from the Medieval and Early Modern Centre – because of his detailed knowledge and love of the medieval. I loved learning with people who were real specialists in their fields and who immersed us deeply in their milieu.

3. What is your proudest achievement?
Achieving a qualification in three very different realms – a BA at Sydney, a science-based Masters degree at Edinburgh Napier University, and a vocational qualification at TAFE, all of which gave me different complementary skills I have combined to great effect in my career.

4. Who inspires you?
So many people who do ordinary unsung jobs, but especially those in careers where vocation and a sense of service override profit and ambition. I am especially inspired by women in conventionally male careers - I have certainly had my fair share of prejudice and stares for driving farm tractors and speaking about science. I am also inspired by all the frontline scientists and conservationists past and present, working hard to explore and protect the natural world.

5. Tell us more about yourself, you background, how you ultimately came to work at the Scottish Wildlife Trust?
My BA led me logically to travel in Europe , Britain and Ireland to explore my roots. It was this immersion in the landscape and culture of my ancestors that brought all that study of history, archeology and literature alive and still inspires me today. Whilst travelling I fell naturally into working in animal welfare and rescue with my practical skills. I then decided to study for an MSc to look at the bigger picture of conservation on a species and habitat level. After working for a wide range of public and charity sector conservation organisations, I found the Wildlife Trust movement with its grassroots approach an ideal fit for me.

6. What is the mantra you live by and what drives you?
To live simply in order that the earth may simply live. Without sounding too trite: I am driven to make a difference, but with a sense of joy, fun and humour!

7. What has been the most memorable success you have had?
I would say: Inspiring a love of nature in the wider public and mentoring the next generation of wildlife professionals. As well as hosting more than 800 students a year in the formal education program I set up, I have personally mentored more than 20 new wildlife rangers to give them a start on this career path. It is satisfying to feel you are passing on skills and experience which will hopefully long outlive you!

8. What are your plans for the future?
To keep being an advocate for nature and make a practical difference- wherever that takes me. Perhaps eventually doing some PhD research or lecturing when I am too old to hold a chainsaw or wrestle an eagle.

9. What advice would you give to students graduating from the University of Sydney?
Explore! Don’t regard your first degree as the only peg on which to hang your career hopes and plans. My career hasn’t been linear and has been a series of satisfying fresh challenges and sideways jumps. Combine your academic studies with practical and real world experience to broaden your horizons.