Margot Law, Regional Partnership Officer and Casey Taylor, Koala Officer, lead the delivery of koala conservation actions across the Southern Highlands region under the NSW Koala Strategy. Based at Wingecarribee Shire Council, Casey provides partners, stakeholders and community members with on ground support for koala conservation projects, while Margot coordinates the implementation of actions under the NSW Koala Strategy from within the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE).
We recently sat down with Margot and Casey to find out more about their background, career and most importantly what drives them to do the work they do.
What is your background?
Margot: Prior to working with the Koala Strategy, I was the Koala and Private Land Conservation Officer at Wingecarribee Shire Council, so I have lots of experience working with Highlanders and public land managers in the Southern Highlands to conserve and research koalas. During my time at Wingecarribee Shire Council I developed the annual monitoring program ‘Koala Karaoke’, worked hard to quadruple the rate of new Land for Wildlife properties signing up over 3 years, advised the Biodiversity Conservation Trust’s Southern Highlands Koala Habitat Tender and supported the Gundungurra Traditional Owners to restore 25 hectares of habitat at Guula Ngurra National Park.
Casey: I lived in Western Sydney suburbia during my childhood and teen years which limited my nature experiences, but I always had a love for animals, watching countless nature documentaries. Biology was my favourite subject in high school which led me to studying science at university where my love for wildlife and the environment really blossomed! During this time, I volunteered in university labs, farms, zoos, and veterinary hospitals to get a feel for the different career options.
Every day is different in koala land! Some days I'm out at 3am spotlighting to find koalas, other days I'm chatting to Highlanders about habitat restoration or crunching numbers on the computer working on habitat maps.
What has your career path looked like and what led you to joining the Koala Strategy team?
Margot: I love the passion and innovation that oozes out of the Koala Strategy team. The Koala Strategy regional delivery team is so collaborative, and we all support each other to ensure that we can work towards reversing the decline of koalas in NSW. It is a fantastic job where I can use all my wide-ranging skills, including conservation, community engagement and data crunching.
Casey: In 2016, I graduated The University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience with Honours. I then worked on a Nepean River restoration project with Conservation Volunteers Australia, where we removed weeds, managed erosion, planted ground covers, shrubs and trees and monitored the local fauna. Next, I pursued a PhD in Ecology. My project combined my interests in wildlife, parasites and human-wildlife conflict - studying the wildlife hosts of ticks in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. During my PhD and other volunteering opportunities, I spent lots of time in the field surveying small mammals. I also worked as a university demonstrator on various biology, ecology and conservation subjects. After finishing my PhD, I worked on a few ecological projects in the Northern Beaches, Northwest Victoria, Western Sydney and Lake Macquarie.
What does your day-to-day role entail?
Margot: Every day is different in Koala land! Some days I’m out at 3am spotlighting to find koalas, other days I’m chatting to Highlanders about habitat restoration or crunching numbers on the computer working on habitat maps. I really enjoy the variety of the work that I get to do with the Koala Strategy and the vast array of people that are committed to koala conservation that I get to work with.
Casey: My job is so varied! Some days I’m office-bound focusing on project planning and administration, attending meetings, organising contractors and chatting to landholders. On other days I’m in the field visiting private properties for koala habitat restoration projects or visiting the Wingecarribee’s glorious national parks and other natural areas for our annual bioacoustic monitoring program called ‘Koala Karaoke’.
We're all acutely aware of how urban sprawl and modern society threatens biodiversity. But in my job, I feel that I can have real on-ground impact in helping restore habitat for wildlife, especially koalas!
Why do you do what you do?
Margot: It is such a privilege to be able to work on a species that I am passionate about with an active community that wants to contribute to its conservation. The Southern Highlands is such an interesting place to work on koalas – we have two stronghold populations that are 50 kilometres away from each other but completely different in terms of habitat, home range size, disease status and population density!
Casey: The driving force behind what I do is my passion for wildlife and nature. We’re all acutely aware of how urban sprawl and modern society threatens biodiversity. But in my job, I feel that I can have real on-ground impact in helping restore habitat for wildlife, especially koalas! I love that I get to work on collaborative projects that are meaningful, working towards outcomes that will benefit koalas, the broader ecosystem and the local community. It’s also a HUGE plus that I get to spend time in our beautiful natural areas and get paid for it!