- Study at Deakin
- Campus life
- Industry and community
- About Deakin
WILDLIFE and Conservation Biology lecturer Desley Whisson was standing thigh deep in a swamp, holding a native rat, when she realised that she wanted to pursue a career in ecology.
“It was five o’clock in the morning and I was standing thigh deep in a swamp holding a native rat and I realised that there was something unique in the experience and that was what I wanted to pursue,” she said.
Since then, Dr Whisson has been committed to the field of environmental management through her research and work in government and academia. She obtained her PhD in Ecology from the Queensland University of Technology before heading overseas to work at the University of California.
Most recently, Dr Whisson led the Kangaroo Island Koala Management Program for the South Australian Government for three years and administered an annual budget of $1 million. She said the experience on Kangaroo Island provided her with an understanding of not just the theory, but the reality, of environmental management.
“Working for government in a real conservation biology situation taught me about the human elements of environmental management, which are very important. You can do good science, but that does not mean that it is going to be adopted,” she said.
“You need good communication skills because you need to be an advocate; science on its own isn’t enough to make people listen.”
This was particularly relevant on Kangaroo Island, where people’s attitudes towards koalas impacted on environmental issues.
“The koalas on Kangaroo Island are a great example of the human element of environmental management because, despite the environmental argument for culling, you can’t ignore the human dimension.”
As well as her practical work in the environmental management field, Dr Whisson has produced a range of peer-reviewed research publications and co-authored the book ‘Wildlife Pest Control Around Gardens and Homes’.
She now aims to draw on her industry experience and research to provide students with the combination of theoretical knowledge and practical skills to gain successful employment in the environmental field.
“I always wanted to come back to academia and I find the students and other scientists mentally stimulating,” she said. “I think I have a lot to gain from my work at Deakin and a lot to give back. Working for government in a real conservation biology situation has provided me with experiences that will be really helpful for my students. This will enable them to apply what they’re doing to real scenarios and issues,” she said.