Brianna Blok



Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology)


Melbourne Burwood

Graduation year


Current position

Baillieu Myer intern with Zoos Victoria


Brianna Blok always knew she wanted to work with animals – and she didn’t let a 44 ATAR stop her from pursuing her passion.

Where a passion for conservation can lead

Now an alum of Deakin’s Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology), Bri’s thriving on her dream career path as a Baillieu Myer intern with Zoos Victoria, caring for the critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum.

A proud Bunurong woman who grew up between Queensland and Melbourne, Bri is a living example that, as she puts it, ‘your life isn’t over if high school didn’t work out for you’. Here’s how she did it.

Getting a kickstart with practical experience

Putting aside her disappointing ATAR score, Bri filled her gap year with animal-related projects.

‘Because I was so set on getting into the Deakin course and working in the animal industry, and I was so passionate about conservation, I contacted any zoo or wildlife park that would have me and did work experience there,’ she says.

She became a volunteer research assistant with bandicoots on Phillip Island, cared and protected for sea turtles in Papua New Guinea, worked as a zookeeper at Healesville Sanctuary and became a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and rescuer with Wildlife Victoria.

‘I was taking on ringtail possums, and I rescued and released five of those,’ she remembers proudly. Then, at the beginning of 2020, she helped to rehabilitate four injured koalas that had been brought into Australian Wildlife Health Centre hospital after bushfires.

‘They’ve all been released back into the wild with temporary radio tracking collars on, so when we went out to remove the collars we were able to see that two of the girls who came to us as juveniles had their own young in the wild. It was a really happy story,’ she says.

Then, at age 20, after all this experience, Bri was thrilled to be welcomed into her dream degree, Deakin’s Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology), where she thrived.

‘It worked out a thousand times better for me to get the hands-on experience before I did the theoretical side of things,’ Bri reflects.

Following a childhood dream

Through her Bunurong grandpa, Bri learnt she’s following a long family line of conservationists caring for injured wildlife: ‘his Aunty used to have kangaroos in pillowcases hanging off doorknobs,’ she says.  

‘My family is very wildlife orientated. I feel like that connection to land and nature has always been a huge part of me. It’s amazing that as a Bunurong woman I can help people with their connection to land.’

Growing up in Queensland, her family had an array of pets, from dogs, cats and guinea pigs to chickens they raised for her finch-breeding grandpa, who she describes affectionately as a ‘huge bird nerd’.

Bri moved to Melbourne for high school, but it was a ‘zookeeper for a day’ experience at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo that gave her the first spark of career ambition at age 14.

Another particularly inspiring moment for Bri was a guest lecturer who visited her class at Deakin, Marissa Parrot, a senior conservation biologist at Zoos Victoria who she’s now proud to call a colleague.

‘I remember sitting listening to her and I was like, “she is exactly who I want to be.” I was so inspired,’ says Bri.

If I can rehabilitate animals and put them back into the wild when they wouldn’t have survived without our intervention, that’s something I’m really passionate about.

Brianna Blok

Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology)

Taking an incredible internship opportunity

During a stint after graduation working at Melbourne Aquarium with sharks, rays, sea turtles and fish, Bri saw the Zoos Victoria Baillieu Myer internship program advertised and jumped at the opportunity.

As one of three interns in the year-long program, Bri chose to join the small team working on restoration, support and protection of the extremely cute Leadbeater’s possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem, which was once thought extinct, but rediscovered in 1961.

‘The Leadbeater’s possum needs tree density to be quite tight so they can jump from branch to branch to avoid travelling along the ground from predators, but those habitats make them highly vulnerable to wildfires,’ Bri explains.

The Leadbeater’s possum used to be found stretching from Koo Wee Rup, through Victoria’s highlands and into New South Wales, but due to multiple bushfires and logging, the species is found only in the central part of Victoria’s highlands. Even more concerning, the lowland genetic group now has fewer than 40 individuals remaining in the wild.

Last year, Bri’s team set up about 60 cameras in the dense forested areas northeast of Healesville and is using data analysis tools to track the possums. Next, they’re installing newly designed, partially 3D-printed nest boxes to support breeding and persistence in disturbed landscapes.

‘It’s really great, because we’re getting amazing data. We’re finding the Leadbeater’s possum are recolonising in sites that were burned in the 2009 bushfires. For perspective, the 2009 bushfires burnt 45% of Leadbeater’s possum habitat,’ Bri shares.

‘I’m seeing possum babies on the cameras, so we know they’re breeding in the wild. They’re super cute – they peel perfect strips of paper bark off and make their nests really beautifully. They’re so particular!’

Staying open to opportunities

Whether locally or overseas, Bri’s committed to exploring opportunities to help preserve species in their natural habitats.

‘If I can rehabilitate animals and put them back into the wild when they wouldn’t have survived without our intervention, that’s something I’m really passionate about,’ she says.  

After her internship, she plans to return to study.

‘One day I might even get a doctorate,’ she adds. ‘I’m big on the idea that whatever’s meant for me, that moment will come to me. There’s so many areas of conservation… I just want to save them all!’

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