Written by Lisa Clark

From Psychology, to Social Work, to… Wildlife and Conservation Biology? I took a bit of a detour to get here, but it’s funny how things work out and you can end up where you thought you would as a child.

My first undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Social Science majoring in Psychology and co-majoring in Sociology. Following that I went to complete a two year Masters in Social Work degree. After all of the studying I was feeling really burnt out and booked myself a one way ticket to the UK to go traveling. It was during this time I realised that since I was young all I had wanted to do was work with animals in some way and be outdoors, so I did my research, applied for a Wildlife and Conservation Biology course and got on a plane back to Australia. Then everything started falling into place.

Born in Australia when my parents moved from the UK temporarily for two years, we moved back to England before I was 2 years old. My childhood memories are of growing up in England until moving back to Australia when I was 13. My Dad’s job meant he travelled somewhat frequently. We travelled back and forth to Australia to visit when he would spend 6 months out of the year working here. It provided me with the opportunity to travel at a young age and exposed me to different landscapes and wildlife. We often did trips up the east coast seeing everything from temperate Melbourne to tropical Queensland. That meant a whole lot of exposure to different wildlife as well. I was in my element at those times.

These experiences also instilled a love of travel in me. I’ve since been lucky enough to have further opportunities to travel to places like Madagascar at the age of 16 where I got to spend time in remote communities and see their amazing wildlife and landscapes. It’s been over 10 years since I was there and I still have vivid memories of the people and places I saw. It’s still one of my favourite places I’ve ever been to and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to go back.

Growing up in England we lived opposite a woods which meant an array of wildlife right in our back garden from birds, butterflies, squirrels, foxes and badgers. I was fascinated by them. Throughout the year the woods was the best place to live near. Blackberry picking, collecting chestnuts, seeing the bluebells come out in spring, there was always something happening. Nature was very much my happy place. It then also became my safe place.

I realised from quite a young age that my sexuality was different to that of my peers at the time. It wasn’t until high school that I really understood what it meant. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best experience at first. Once word got out about my sexuality after I had mentioned it to someone, the bullying followed and remained up until I left to move to Australia after my second year of high school. It was a rough time, but I turned to nature as a place where I could forget about everything, even just for a few hours.

When my parents said we were moving to Australia I was excited for a change and to get away from the bullying. I mean, how much further away can you get? Then I had to face the reality of trying to fit in. That wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped. I don’t think I ever really found my place until I started my Wildlife and Conservation Biology degree. It finally feels like I’m heading in the right direction. My confidence has grown over the last few years and I’ve excelled more than I have in my previous courses. More importantly, I’m so much happier in this field.

I fell in love with photography after studying it during my last few years of high school, now mainly photographing wildlife and landscapes. One of the great things about being involved in Wildlife and Conservation is that I now get to combine my future work with my love of photography. Hopefully, lockdown will ease in the near future and the photography adventures will be able to continue again soon.

So where am I now? At nearly 28 I’m in my final year of my Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) degree. Wow what a year to be doing that in with all that’s going on. My final year was going to be the best year of my degree. So many field courses and opportunities. That lasted for all of two weeks into classes. I had to reorganise the rest of my degree several times this year, and I’m sure this is the case for many others as well. It’s been pretty disheartening having field courses cancelled. Projects I was so excited to work on and had worked so hard over the previous years of classes to get into are no longer happening. Lab classes have also been cancelled, and I worry about what impact this will have when trying to apply for jobs because of not being able to gain the practical skills (I’m sure this is also felt by many others). But we keep going.  My second semester was only supposed to be a 2 class semester and then a field course in December, now I have my work cut out for me to try and graduate by doing 4 classes this semester, an online version of the field course in December and (fingers crossed) my university may run some intensive one week lab sessions to gain skills if we’re allowed back on campus.

Despite all this, I’m excited to get out into the workforce and build a career. It’ll be a challenge. I don’t have as much experience as I would like and I still have a lot to learn, but I’ll find my way and get to where I want to be eventually.

For more of Lisa, check out @gordelierclarkimages on Instagram