The Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program (GTCP) has been running since 2008 and still running, developing and improving every year. Each year a new seasonal team of enthusiastic research interns join and leave their marks on the science program. Not often do ex-interns return to visit the new team, but Gnaraloo has always been able to count on Andrew Greenley. Andrew was an intern in GTCP season 2012/13 and has been visiting and helping with the turtle training every year since.
Andrew has been around for the past week helping us with our “Train the Trainer” training. We had the chance to interview him about his Gnaraloo experience and what he has been doing since:
How did you come across GTCP? “Quite a convoluted story. It was December 2012 and I was already working at another turtle project. Then a friend of my friend got the offer to join the Gnaraloo Turtle program, as they were looking for people. She couldn’t and asked my friend, who couldn’t either, so she asked me. I thought, why not give it a shot? One week later I was on my way to Gnaraloo!”
What were your first impressions of Gnaraloo Station? “It was such a quick transition I had no idea what to expect. When I finally arrived after a 12-hour drive, I had no idea where things were. Due to that I thought the backpacker building was the office… I went in and there were no people there, just a very messy and scruffy room. A bit of a wrong first impression… Plus, I knew it was going to be remote but it is something that needs to be experienced to fully appreciate.”
Was it hard to live in those remote conditions? “It wasn’t too bad. What made it hard for me was the very quick transition; I was going to be gone for 4 months and I did not have time to say a proper goodbye to my family and friends. A few of them didn’t appreciate the distances involved either so were a bit disappointed they couldn’t just pop in over the weekend. We didn’t have any phone signal, but we had a little internet access to write to them as often as I could.”
How was spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Gnaraloo? “We had big festive meals together. All the research team, backpackers and the staff celebrated together. Then straight after it was my birthday, followed by NYE. So it was a very festive period in the season. One word of advice to the new turtle people; don’t go too crazy at night time, as you still have surveys at the mornings! It’s not very pleasant I can assure you!”
What were the best Gnaraloo moments? “Oh many, but probably seeing my first hatchlings hatch from their nests. The snorkelling is absolutely beautiful. I’m not a very good snorkeler but I wish I was so I could see more and get further out into the reef.”
And the hardest moments? “It wasn’t always easy in general, but probably my first Farquhar survey. Back then it involved overnight camping there and my team mate and myself got sick there and were almost stuck for an extended period of time. A bit of a shocker for us, but we managed to complete the surveys!”
What did you get out of the whole Gnaraloo experience? “I used to be a very shy person, so it definitely helped me come out of my shell, with the help of constant people interaction and presentations to guests and schools. I also finally got to put what I was taught at university into practice. I proved to myself that I could make the jump from theoretical to practical and hence, progressed into being a biologist.”
What have you been involved with after GTCP Season 2012/13? “With the boost of confidence, I completed an honours project tracking the dispersal of tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) and woylies (aka brushed tailed bettongs, Bettongia penicillata). I then felt that academics wasn’t really the path for me and instead moved onto education and tourism. This was partly inspired by the community work I had done with the GTCP and had continued with Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Currently I am working at a wildlife park where I conduct tours, provide hands on education as well as animal husbandry.”
How has it been coming back to Gnaraloo this Season 2016/17? “I have been back several times throughout the years and seen how the program has developed and progressed. It is a positive experience. This year GTCP 2016/17 has improved their surveys with extra material for the investigation, for example the excavations, broadening their research field. The community engagement aspects have also grown a vast amount! My year it was only the initiation and was very basic. Now GTCP has more onsite visitors and reaches over 40 schools with presentations to increase awareness in conservation. Very impressive!”
Andrew will still be spending time with us this weekend, but leaves Gnaraloo on Monday. He is a great turtle man to have around. Thank you for being patient with us and we hope we will see you up at Gnaraloo soon!
Have a Turtley awesome weekend everyone!