Since 2017, the School of Biological Sciences has partnered with the world’s leading conservation agency, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to provide three-month internships to seven students completing Ecology and Conservation Biology majors within the School. These students have been involved in the preparation and running of conservation workshops on Australian lizards and snakes (2017), New Zealand reptiles (2018), Australian freshwater fishes (2019), and Australian plants (2019). These workshops have been held at the Jock Marshall Reserve classroom, and have been supported by the School of Biological Sciences.

As interns, they have gained expertise in creating Red List assessments on the conservation status of species, insight into the inner workings of the IUCN, invaluable experience interacting with IUCN staff and leading conservation experts, and expanded networking opportunities. But don’t just take our word for it, hear from some students (below) who recently completed internships.


Emily Smith, intern for the Australian plant workshop

I am currently in my second year of an Ecology and Conservation Biology Major.

“It allowed me to build on some of my personal, employability skills but I also developed a wealth of knowledge on the focal topic. I was able to network with a range of ecological professionals including those who work for IUCN and many “experts” on focal plant species”. Importantly, “being an IUCN intern also gave me the self-confidence to put myself out there and get involved with a range of other opportunities and projects."

Jenna Barker, intern for the New Zealand reptile workshop

I’ve completed my double degree in Arts and Science (Extended major in Ecology and Conservation Bio), and have attended a conservation conference at Oxford University. I’m currently pursuing a Masters course in the UK.

“It provided me with an insight into the work behind the scenes of an internationally important conservation organisation and how much work there is still yet to be done in terms of individual species research and on the ground protection of threatened species. My experience as an IUCN intern assisted me with gaining placement as a field assistant with a carnivore research group in Malawi.”


Claire MacKay, intern for the Australian plant workshop

I am currently completing an Extended Major in Ecology and Conservation Biology and will be continuing into Honours next year.

“Being an intern was a really valuable and rewarding experience, as I was able to apply the concepts that I had been learning in my course in a real working environment. The internship was one of the best things that I have done in my Ecology and Conservation Biology major.”

The results of these workshops can also lead to publications in scientific journals, providing opportunities for the interns to be authors on the publications. For example, the results of the 2017 IUCN workshop on Australian lizards and snakes were published in the leading international journal Biological Conservation in August 2019. Two of the IUCN interns were involved in the preparation of this journal article, and are co-authors on the paper. The journal article reports on the results of an assessment of around 950 species of terrestrial Australian lizards and snakes, and highlights a deterioration in the conservation status of the group and increases in threats to their persistence.


Claire Walke, intern for the Australian squamate workshop

I am currently doing my Honours project in the School of Biological Sciences, and working as a Technical Assistant within the School of Biological Sciences.

“The opportunity to actively participate in the international conservation assessment process of one of Australia’s most diverse taxonomic groups in partnership with one of the most renowned conservation agencies in the world was undeniably daunting, but even more exciting. Attending the workshops allowed me to see how Australia’s most revered herpetology experts overcame the challenges of assessing the conservation status of species by passionately sharing and discussing their collective knowledge, to ultimately produce a conservation status for all of Australia’s squamate reptiles. This was a unique, inspiring, and unforgettable experience… provided context and real-world applicability to what was taught during my degree.”

Importantly, the interns were involved with work specifically aligned with meeting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, a shared blueprint for achieving peace and prosperity of our planet, now and into the future. The students are currently completing, or have recently completed, conservation-themed honours projects within the School of Biological Sciences to further enhance their research skills and experience.

The School of Biological Sciences will continue to provide further opportunities for Ecology and Conservation Biology students to complete volunteer work related to conservation activities, providing them with industry readiness and enhanced competitiveness on the job market.

For further information on this program, please contact Associate Professor David Chapple,