"The role of conservation is really to reverse the decline in our natural capital." ATTICUS FLEMING, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY
Made famous by crusaders like David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Steve Irwin, conservation is the best-known and often popular field within the environmental industry. Conservation focuses on the preservation of habitats, biodiversity and ecosystems – with an emphasis on the biology of the environment. Working in this sector can also involve assessing land for biodiversity value or building development. Not all conservation roles are outdoors; some include managing volunteers and community engagement – a key element in this popular sector - as well as staffing visitor centres and headquarter offices.
Australia has more than 9,400 protected areas – covering nearly 14 per cent of the country’s total land mass. This considerable regulatory responsibility underscores the critical role of professionals in managing these areas.
Atticus Fleming, Chief Executive of Australian Wildlife Conservancy, stresses the urgency of growing Australia’s conservation sector, "Australia has been blessed with natural capital. Our flora and fauna are considered mega diverse and many of them are found only in this country. But, our record over the last 100 years in preserving that capital has been lamentable. The role of conservation is really to reverse the decline in our natural capital."
Mr Fleming believes that science is essential to effective conservation. He says the sector looks for science graduates who have strong skills and a pragmatic approach to the job. "We want graduates who have great technical ability, but also those who are passionate about conservation, practical, and enjoy being in the bush."
Conservation professionals are principally employed by the public sector, including, the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, which manages the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity. Each state or territory has an environment department and may also have an Environmental Protection Authority. There are also regional natural resource management bodies and local councils who employ people conservation professionals.
Not-for-profit organisations employ environmental professionals in a wide variety of jobs on both private and public land, including the management of developing habitats, and coastline. They also employ professionals to respond to critical situations, such as overseeing threatened species, rescuing wildlife, and managing fire. National park rangers recently achieved major conservation successes, bringing back a number of species from the brink of extinction, including Lord Howe Island’s woodhen, the Norfolk Island boobook owl and the Phillip Island hibiscus.
Conservation and not-for-profit organisations often have internships or volunteering programs. These are an ideal way to develop networks and skills in the field, and are how most conservation professionals have entered the industry. Mr Flemming agrees volunteering is an invaluable first step in seeking employment in the industry, and says that internships are "a genuine mechanism for getting work experience and then winning a conservation job at the end of it."
- Environmental jobs in Australia have been growing steadily over the last five years.
- The Australian Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy plans to achieve a 25 per cent increase in the number of Australians, public and private organisations that participate in biodiversity conservation activities by 2015.
- New technology (satellite remote sensing, advanced computer modelling) is bringing a wealth of opportunity to the sector, providing more interesting aspects to conservation roles and opportunities to develop skills.
Conservation officer: $40,000-$52,000
Source: Graduate Careers Australia
- Ecological Society of Australia (ESA)
- Society for Conservation Biology
- Conservation Volunteers Australia
- National Trust of Australia
- Australian Conservation Foundation
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
- NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
- Environment Protection Authority (EPA) NSW
Consider enrolling in one of the following courses and majors to prepare yourself for a career in Conservation.
- B Animal and Veterinary Bioscience
- B Environmental Systems
- B Liberal Arts and Science
- B Science
- B Science (Advanced)
- B Science in Agriculture
- B Veterinary Science
- Agricultural Chemistry
- Agricultural Genetics
- Agricultural Science
- Agricultural Systems
- Environmental Studies
- Farming Systems
- Geology and Geophysics
- Livestock Production
- Marine Biology, Marine Geoscience and Marine Science
- Natural Terrestrial Systems
- Soil Science