What is your occupation on Macca? Describe the main responsibilities of your role on the island.
I am working as a field biologist on the Albatross and Giant Petrel Program, which has been running for over 20 years on Macquarie Island. We are responsible for monitoring population trends for the four albatross and two giant petrel species that breed on the island. This includes searching for and identifying nests at the breeding sites, monitoring breeding success and banding chicks in order to identify individual birds when they return to the island later in life, as well as some tracking work to investigate at sea movements. In this volunteer role we are very lucky as we get to spend most of our time outside in the field and work in some of the most incredible places.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Dandenong, in south east Melbourne. However have lived in Warrnambool in south west Victoria for the past six years.
What is your normal job back in the ‘real world'?
I work for myself as an independent contractor, in fact I have just started my own little business called Wild Reach. Some of the recent work I have been doing include monitoring a threatened little penguin population and coordinating volunteer monitoring efforts for the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network, caring for and training Maremma guardian dogs to protect a little penguin population from fox predation for the Warrnambool City Council, tour guiding, environmental interpretation and education and working as a casual academic and field assistant for Deakin University.
Have you been to Macca or other Antarctic stations previously?
No. Excitingly, this is my first time!
What was your main motivation in coming to Macca for 2017?
The incredible and rare opportunity to work on the greatest seabirds in existence. To be a part of an internationally significant project working towards the conservation of some important species. The opportunity to see wandering albatross. The lure of the adventure of spending a year in such a wild and isolated environment.
List some of your favourite aspects of life on Macca so far:
The wildlife and the weather! This place belongs to the wildlife, we are merely visitors. The island is abundant with wildlife wherever you look. The weather is wild and we are completely at the mercy of it, being here is a wonderful reminder of our place within nature. I love living with the mighty Southern Ocean.
Also the human company is pretty great, our little community comprises of the nicest most interesting mix of people — including a very talented chef!
What are some of the most challenging things about living on Macca?
I would say probably living and working in this climate. The weather here is unpredictable and wild (which is why I love it so much), but working in the field you basically need to plan to have sunshine and snow all in the one morning and our work is dictated by the conditions.
What is the one thing you miss most whilst on the island?
I miss sunshine and being able to walk around wearing not much clothing and going barefoot. I miss my family and friends, and going out dancing and meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.
What do you NOT miss about normal life whilst on the island?
Money. Although most expeditioners do get paid to work here I don’t miss living in a society that is governed by money. I am also very happy to go without cars and driving as well as my mobile phone.
What do you like doing outside of work on Macca?
Work is the best thing I could be doing while I am down here, because it means I am out there with the birds. When I have time off I enjoy watching and photographing the wildlife, reading, writing and planning fun social events as well as playing pranks on fellow expeditioners.
Name your go-to snack whilst out in the field?
At the risk of revealing this to other expeditioners and compromising the availability of the ingredients, it would have to be a choc ripple + PB sanga (two choc ripple biscuits with peanut butter in the middle).
Identify your favourite piece of AAD (Australian Antarctic Division) — issued kit?
In the field I am a big advocate for the yellow shell hat issued. Also I love the huge thermal socks.
One thing you wish you had packed but didn’t?
My reading glasses (oops…). Also I wish I packed my thongs and maybe more clothes.
Is there anyone you would like to give a shout–out to back at home?
I’d love to take this opportunity to acknowledge a dear friend, Maud Berlincourt, who allowed me my first opportunity to live within the realm of the seabirds many years ago. Someone whose passion and love for these sentient beings and whose work ethic and capabilities in the field constantly inspires me. Your presence in my life has led me to where I am today.