Australia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with a large portion of species endemic to Australia. Preserving this wealth of biodiversity isn’t beyond our grasp with careers like Land Conservation. We learn a bit more about this industry, chatting with Jono McPhail.
"The environment is all about working with the community, if you’re working in the community you’re not only having a local impact but a world impact," says Jono McPhail, from Conservation Volunteers Australia.
Jono says that working in Land Conservation has a number of opportunities, both career wise and as an individual. “It is a growing career, you can work all over Australia with these types of skills. You can also travel the world with an environmental job, there are so many opportunities. You can work with all different kinds of species of animals and plants,” he says. “It’s a job that’s very much you take it as it comes. There are so many amazing places you can visit and so many different environments that you can work in”.
Jono did a fair bit of hands-on work over the past year with the Youth Conservation Corps, or the YCC. The YCC is a two-day per week program that runs for 9 weeks, where participants not only complete a Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management, but learn other skills like Senior First Aid Level II and Occupational Health and Safety Level II.
According to the YCC website, participants learn a heap of new skills, depending on the project they’re working in. This is anything from site preparation and monitoring, tree planting, flora and fauna management, bird surveys, trail construction, fencing, seed collection and propagation.
“I guess in completing five years of Uni and writing a thesis in order to suggest ways to resolve a water mitigation issue for a local environmental group and spending a lot of time in the field, I had quite a bit to do with the local environment. One of the main things I did, whilst studying was to help out at a local landcare information centre, south of Adelaide,” he says. “After study had finished I joined the Youth Conservation Corps, which involved volunteering with other young people. The hands on work involved working in different areas around Adelaide and in different environments, from the coast at Semaphore to the National and Recreational Parks in the Adelaide hills.”
Jono reckons this is why he was awarded the Green Ambassador Award last year. The award is to reward and support young Australians who are actively involved in improving their local environment, according to the Conservation Volunteers Australia site.
Since Green Ambassadors, Jono has gone onto work for Conservation Volunteers Australia.
“I was offered a position as a team leader, a couple of weeks before winning the Green Ambassadors Award" he recalls. "As a team leader I had the opportunity to work all over Adelaide, I led a team of 10 young participants on various environmental projects. I visited some amazing placing and had the opportunity to visit areas where public access was limited."
“My favourite project as a team leader, was building hutches and cages for the endangered yellow footed rock wallaby and the hairy noise Wombat at Waite Campus. This project was very important, as we were helping to save endangered native animals and the fact that their existence in the future depends on our research and help."
“My position took me all over Adelaide, I had to laugh at some people when they asked me where was my job situated, I just pointed and said 'out there somewhere.'"
“Early this year I became the project officer for the Youth Conservation Corps Program. My main role is to recruit youth onto the Conservation and Land Management program, where participants can gain nationally accredited training and practical hands on experience. I visit Universities, local community groups, schools, friends of groups, scouts and youth groups around Adelaide to provide presentations on career opportunities and training." Jono says. “I just generally provide these groups with ideas on how to gain a career path into the environmental sector.”
But Jono’s job also has an interesting practical aspect: “I also organise an Energy Program where I organise a team to visit people’s homes in Adelaide, and teach them about how to reduce energy use in their homes.”
The best thing about Jono’s job is that every day gives him a different approach. “You’re always learning,” he says. “The best thing about my job is that I get to see the youth I’ve recruited develop. “They have a small understanding of the environment when they join and by the time they have finished, they all think that they are experts. Its good to see that their experiences to do with the environment is having an impact on their own lives. I see how they develop and I see the areas they want to go into.”
“It can be challenging getting young people to understand what we do and trying to get the message across. A lot of our programs are about meeting people, building skills, having fun and more importantly helping them gain a job through networking. Getting that message across is one of the most difficult aspects.”
Jono says that anyone wanting to enter the Land Conservation industry just needs to want to learn. “It’s a willingness to learn. If to want to strive to get somewhere and help in the environmental side of things you’ll have a big impact.”
“Try to get enough hands on and work experience you can,” he says, as his advice for anyone who wants to get involved in the industry. “The more hands on involved you have, the more work experience, the more understanding you have of the environment and the way it works.”
Applications for the Commonwealth Bank Green Ambassadors close October 24th, 2008.