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International Women’s Day at Zoos Victoria
Today we’re celebrating International Women’s Day at Zoos Victoria.
We’re lucky to have some remarkable women as part of the organisation, working on fighting wildlife extinction. From PhD-qualified animal welfare and reproductive specialists to Zoo Keepers and Vets working at one of our three zoos, their stories are rich and varied and an inspiration to anyone hoping to make a difference to the lives of our precious endangered species.
Dr Marissa Parrott, Reproductive Biologist, Wildlife Conservation and Science, Zoos Victoria
With a Bachelor of Science (honours) and PhD in Zoology, specialising in reproduction, conservation, behaviour and genetics, Marissa has worked across the globe with conservation and research groups as well as fighting extinction in her capacity as Zoos Victoria’s reproductive biologist for the past 10 years.
“I have always loved animals and wanted to work with endangered species breeding programs in zoos,” Marissa says.
“I’ve had a number of amazing experiences that maintain my passion for my work – from releasing bandicoots to the wild, to finding our first captive-bred Mountain Pygmy-possum young for the season.”
Marissa works closely with all the three zoos, often spending long days and nights in the field, dedicated to Zoos Victoria’s battle against wildlife extinction.
Dr Sally Sherwen, Animal Welfare Specialist, Wildlife Conservation and Science, Zoos Victoria
Sally was born to work with animals - her first jobs were dog washing and dog sitting, leading her to nearly nine years of study, completing a Bachelor of Science (double major in marine biology and conservation biology), Master of Science by research, and PhD (animal behaviour and welfare).
“I read once that evidence plus logic equals science, and this concept has seen some huge advances in the field of interpreting animals’ emotions,” Sally says.
“It’s definitely not logical to think that humans are the only animals in the entire animal kingdom that are capable of complex emotional lives!”
Much of Sally’s work at Zoos Victoria centres on thinking from the animal’s perspective. This notion has significantly informed Zoos Victoria research projects.
Emily McLeod, Senior Social Science Research Manager, Wildlife Conservation and Science, Zoos Victoria
A relatively new recruit to the world of Zoos Victoria, Emily holds qualifications in psychology and psychophysiology, science and a Master of Science in Zoology, and joined the organisation in 2016.
“In recent years I have become increasingly interested in how and why people engage with our natural world and how we can encourage our community to think about the everyday things they can do to live a wildlife-friendly life.” says Emily.
Emily‘s role is a key component in linking the science of biology and welfare with human behaviours and paths of influence and she adds a critical human-behavioural component to fighting wildlife extinction.
Jess Thomas, Senior Threatened Species Keeper, Healesville Sanctuary
Jess holds a graduate degree in Science and is integral to continuously improving the care and future of the Corroboree Frogs a tiny species threatened by extinction.
Both Southern and Northern Corroboree Frogs are classified as Critically Endangered and are only found in Mt Kosciuszko National Park, NSW. Corroboree Frogs are at risk of extinction in the wild because of Chytridiomycosis – a disease caused by infection with Amphibian Chytrid Fungus. At the last census there were a handful of calling male frogs found.
The captive breeding program in place for this species is integral to their ongoing survival in the wild and a genetically diverse captive population works to ensure this species doesn’t go extinct on our watch.
Hope for the species lies in the zoo-based maintenance of the species’ genetic variation and breed-for-release program. This program has already demonstrated that we can prevent the complete extinction of this remarkable little creature and it’s people like Jess who help these animals thrive in the wild.
Natalie Rourke, Senior Veterinarian, Werribee Open Range Zoo
Natalie has been a vet for more than 25 years, including a position at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. ”Each week we have a number of scheduled and unscheduled procedures including things like health exams, dental work, surgeries and weigh-ins for the animals that live at Werribee Open Range Zoo. We’re able to bring the smaller animals like meerkats and monkeys into our wonderful veterinary hospital, but for our bigger animals out in the Savannah it means jumping in the ute and doing the work out in the field,” says Natalie.
Almost every animal in the vets’ care receives annual health exams and quarterly parasite checks to ensure they stay healthy.
This is a just small selection of remarkable women talent working for Zoos Victoria. Our three zoos have an equally high calibre of talent, male and female, working collaboratively together, each playing their role in tirelessly to fighting wildlife extinction and providing care to the animals in our zoos. Although today we’re celebrating women, we’re also grateful for every staff member who is dedicated to the efforts of fighting wildlife extinction.