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Working on the wild side: Academic helps inspire next generation of wildlife warriors

Academic helps inspire next generation of wildlife warriors.

Growing up on a property near Brisbane, Dr Meg Edwards always knew she had an affinity for animals – but it was a trip to South Africa that opened her eyes to the career possibilities.

Now, wrangling bandicoots, working to protect native species and teaching the next generation of wildlife experts is all in a day’s work for the University of Southern Queensland lecturer

“I always knew I wanted to work with animals – I definitely went through that phase when I was like I want to be a marine biologist or maybe a vet,” Dr Edwards said.

“Then, when I was a teenager, I went on holiday to South Africa and saw there was a whole other way in which you could work with animals.

“You could be out in the bush – and that could be your job. From that point, I started thinking about a career in wildlife management.”

After finishing high school, Dr Edwards completed her undergraduate studies in Brisbane under the guidance of wildlife expert Dr Peter Murray, another addition to the University of Southern Queensland team.

She then got up close and personal with one of Australia’s cutest marsupials as part of her PhD project.

“Bandicoots – they’re quite common, you’d probably find them in your backyard tearing up the dirt,” Dr Edwards said.

“My project focused on how we could improve mammalian reintroduction success and the bandicoot was a great model species.

“We wanted to see how they responded to native and introduced predators – and I can tell you now, not well. They didn’t seem to be overly afraid.

“We also wanted to see if they could learn to use an automatic cat flap as a means of accessing a safe place, such as a nest box.

“While they did end up using the cat flap, we couldn’t be sure they understood it was a means of protection rather than another way to get a snack.”

After her studies, and a stint working as a senior wildlife technician, Dr Edwards joined the University of Southern Queensland as a wildlife management lecturer.

She is now imparting her knowledge on the first cohort of wildlife management students, a new offering at the University.

“We have over 40 students, which is amazing, and they’re all so keen to learn,” Dr Edwards said.

“It’s our natural world and everything plays an important role.

“In this day and age, wildlife management is paramount – if we lose diversity we could end up seeing ecosystems fail, to the detriment of others.”

This week, students travelled to Toowoomba for their first residential school, where they learnt about wildlife identification and in-the-field techniques.

Want to be hands-on with protecting our wildlife? The University of Southern Queensland’s Bachelor of Science majoring in Wildlife Management could be the course for you. Learn how to preserve and protect our fauna with expert guidance from a team of industry experts. Learn more here.