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Wanna work with animals? Protecting them is a full-time STEM gig

Museums Victoria’s senior curator of mammals and lead researcher Dr Kevin Rowe, is proof that STEM skills +  a love of animals = one seriously exciting animal science career.

National Threatened Species Day has come and gone, but Museum Victoria’s lead researcher and senior curator of animals Dr Kevin Rowe has dedicated his career to helping out endangered wildlife. And nope, he’s not a vet.

Data collection, field trips, report-writing and hanging out with animals IRL are all part of the unique science-meets-research role, that marries a love of analytics and making a significant impact on the lives of Australian animals and their environments.

RELATED: 5 minutes with a conservationist

Dr Rowe’s most-recent project suggests just how key animal research roles are in our fight against climate change too.  As part of Victoria’s Bushfire Biodiversity Response and Early Recovery program, he and his team are returning to fire-ravaged sites to search for answers into how populations of the Broad-toothed Rat are faring.

Published in CSIRO Publishing’s Wildlife Research journal earlier this year, research out of Museums Victoria identifies an alarming decline in the distribution of the native species linked to the effects of climate change – and not helped at all by the country’s recent fire disaster.

“Broad-toothed Rats are unique among Australian rodents in that they feed almost exclusively on sedges and grasses, and live only in cool and wet environments,” the mammal-lover explains. “If the current climate trend continues, we could see this species pushed further and further upwards, eventually disappearing from warmer, low-elevation areas.”

From his fieldwork in the freezing conditions of the Victorian Eastern Alps, Dr Rowe describes sobering sights of the charred runways the rats use to shelter in – now clearly exposed against the blackened earth.

“Getting on the ground to understand the intensity and severity of the fires is essential to know how populations within the burn are faring. Impacts like feral horses and predators can worsen after a fire and we need to know about how these impacts have changed.”

Dr Rowe’s research points to the importance of museum collections and records for tackling the response to major ecological events and impacts like climate change and bushfires.

“Museums house the records of our changing wildlife that give us the power to understand how species will respond to future threats. In order to act on threats like bushfires and climate change, we need information about where the species was before these events happen.”

Keen to get into a similarly exciting – and important – animal conservation role? Here’s a list of out-of-the-box animal science gigs to consider.

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