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Elise McCarthy



Always dreamt of working outside? There’s a planet full of roles in conservation! Office, optional

Elise has always been passionate about the environment and knew she wanted to land an eco career. But when it came to picking a pathway – deciding what and where to study – she suddenly found herself facing an overwhelming amount of choice.  

“There were so many courses available!” she says. “I honestly didn’t know where to start!”   

Lucky for Elise, a friend encouraged her to enrol in a Bachelor of Biodiversity and Conservation at Macquarie University, which proved a perfect fit. Along with rating subjects like Ecology and Biodiversity and Conservation, one of the highlights for Elise was meeting others just as into nature as her. “I actually made a lot of great like-minded friends,” she says.

These days you can find Elise working out of her leafy office – a rotating roster of parks in North Western Sydney.

After finishing her degree, the fresh grad worked casually in bush regeneration and volunteered with the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC)  – a role that got  her thinking about further career opportunities in scientific research! Keen to get more hands-on experience, Elise kickstarted a Masters at Macquarie which she knew had a strong research component. 

Elise says the real-world projects she got to be involved in are some of the best things about doing her Masters. And up there with the highlights? Contributing to field work undertaken at North Head Sanctuary on behalf of AWC, and an internship with ornithology expert Professor Simon Griffith – a once-in-a-lifetime bird trapping project in the Kimberleys, Western Australia!

“With the help of course convenors I was encouraged to find what interested me most and go for it,” says Elise. “It was these practical projects that proved the most helpful in getting my networking skills up too!”

Park life

These days you can find Elise working out of her leafy office – a rotating roster of parks in North Western Sydney. As a ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) her epic to-do list includes patrols, managing bush regeneration contracts, working with volunteers, undertaking hazard reduction burns, maintaining infrastructure and liaising with the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council on the care of cultural sites. 

But it isn’t all fresh air and bush walks. Elise stresses that although she’s outdoors a lot, there’s a fair bit of admin and office work to tackle each week too. 

“Ultimately I love the diversity of it,” says Elise. “And being able to make informed decisions in the interests of cultural and environmental protection and biodiversity conservation.”

Future focused

Elise says she could honestly see herself working at NPWS forever, but would love to eventually land a research role that contributes to the protection of threatened species.

And her advice to high school students keen to head down a similar path? “Have confidence in yourself, network and intern!” Elise stresses. “Hunt down researchers, professors, botanists, ecologists and volunteer opportunities!”

Elise’s study and career pathway

  • Bachelor of Biodiversity and Conservation, Macquarie University
  • Volunteer, Australian Wildlife Conservancy
  • Master of Conservation Biology, Macquarie University
  • Ranger, National Parks and Wildlife Service

This article is brought to you in partnership with Macquarie University and originally appears in Careers with STEM: Science 2022.


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