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Published February 14th 2014
Research projects on animal welfare, right in your backyard
When I came to Melbourne a couple of years ago, I was determined to help Australian wildlife however I could, but volunteer programs proved tricky to partake in without a car. As logic would have it, many conservation projects are set up in species' natural habitats, far away from the CBD and public transport. So I was ecstatic when I heard about Earthwatch, an international organisation that runs projects related to wildlife conservation in a wide range of areas around the world- and several of these projects happen to be based in Melbourne! Even better, these studies invite members of the public along, with the University of Melbourne as a meeting point.
Right now, an ongoing Earthwatch project entitled Turtles on the Move is taking volunteers from all walks of life. The aim of the study is to determine the impact of urbanisation on long neck turtles in ponds all around Melbourne. With 20 sites in the greater Melbourne area, the enthusiastic team of scientists undoubtedly has room for more participants, though spots fill up quickly.
Working in groups of three (plus a scientist) participants are driven to suburban Melbourne to set up nets in prime turtle habitats. After a provided lunch, volunteers retrieve the nets and measure the turtles that got caught. Measuring and marking turtles ensures the scientific community gleans a better understanding of how pollution and urban expansion impact the species. Of course, the turtles are returned to their natural habitat once they've been assessed and no harm is ever done to them!
While there is a fee to participate in this conservation study, participants literally live the life of a scientist for the day, and the activities involved are quite hands on, so your contribution is rather small compared to the experience you'll remember for a lifetime. Budding environmentalists, students or professionals wishing for a change of scenery from the office will undoubtedly gain from this volunteer project.
Dates for Earthwatch's turtle research project are up on the website now, all the way into 2015, with further booking instructions.
Wildlife conservation is a riveting field, full of challenges. By working with Earthwatch, you really get a sense of the harsh effects of urbanisation on native Australian fauna, but also of the passion pushing certain members of the scientific community to protect the species dwelling in their backyard. So if you have a day to spare, spend a few hours volunteering beside a scientist- and you won't even have to leave Melbourne to join wildlife conservation efforts!