Conserving the New South Wales coast with Conservation Volunteers Australia

by isvolunteers on Monday, 4 July 2016

Australian Project Leader, Clementine Watson shares her experience leading projects along the north coast of NSW with ISV partner Conservation Volunteers Australia.

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Our amazing volunteers tackling marine debris head on at Nobbys Beach, Newcastle. (c) ISV

This season I led four projects along the New South Wales (NSW) coast with ISV’s partner Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) Newcastle.

Where we worked

We teamed up with lots of local partners including the Forestry Corporation NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Services, Newcastle City Council and other smaller partners like Cressfield Horse Stud.

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Ramsar listed Hunter Wetlands was one of the many stunning locations we worked at. (c) ISV

The locations we worked at varied each week, allowing the teams to explore different pockets of biological diversity across north-east NSW. Some of the unique and rich ecosystems we completed conservation work in included Watagan State Forest, Chichester State Forest, Bruxner Park Flora Reserve, RAMSAR listed Hunter Wetlands, Stockton Sandspit and the iconic Newcastle destination of Nobbys Beach.

Each of these areas face a number of environmental challenges, including erosion, loss of biodiversity and management of threatened species, pollution, and impact of noxious invasive species.

Most of the volunteers I had the pleasure of getting to know came from the United States and Canada. They were studying a diverse range of majors from engineering to psychology, business to ecology. The different backgrounds and personalities were united on the project by the common interests in sustainability, conservation and travel.

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Working with National Parks and Wildlife Service to create salt marsh habitat for migratory wader birds. (c) ISV

“This experience has changed my life in so many ways and I’ll never forget my family that helped me change and grow along the way.”

Emily Bruton, Western Michigan University

The hard yakka

Differing levels of skills and strength was never an issue. We equipped the volunteers with all the skills and training they needed to complete a range of tasks, which included walking track clearing, maintenance and building (including bridges and stairs), maintaining recreation areas, removing invasive species, maintenance of critical habitats (such as salt marsh for migratory birds through mangrove and weed removal), planting native species and building protective fences to keep them safe.

“Stunning location. Pulling weeds isn’t so bad if you’re in a rainforest. We can see our impact in the environment. It is really interesting to apply what we learned in school to the ecosystem around us. A very memorable experience.”

Gianna Milano, California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo

A typical day

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Working with NPWS and Worimi Conservation Lands was a great opportunity for volunteers to learn about Australian indigenous history, knowledge and culture. (c) ISV

A regular ISV day would start with a 7am wake-up, with breakfast and lunch packed by 8am when we would head out for the day. In the time driving to and from project sites, volunteers would share their music taste and stories from their home towns. In the morning we would work for two hours then break for morning tea (AKA ‘morno’) then work for two hours before lunch, then work for another two hours in the afternoon before heading back to the house.

Most days, we would arrive back to the volunteer house at around 4pm, which left room for activities such as exploring the local sights, seeing Australian animals, frisbee on beach, swimming at one of Newcastle’s many beaches, watching the sunset over the city, shopping, exploring the many cafes of Newcastle and more.

The fabulous Sam

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with the welcoming and enthusiastic staff at CVA Newcastle, and I commend them for their professionalism and commitment to conservation work in Australia.

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Exploring one of Newcastle’s many beautiful beaches. (c) ISV

“Hosting and working alongside the ISV volunteers this season has been an experience I won’t soon forget! It’s been an absolute pleasure getting to know each of the volunteers while working to achieve positive lasting environmental outcomes across a variety of projects from coastal sand dune stabilisation and the creation of migratory shorebird habitat to track maintenance in World Heritage listed rainforests. Each group has been dynamic and energetic, with a real passion to impact their world positively. I look forward to the next bunch!”

Sam Des Forges, CVA Newcastle Team Leader

Lasting impacts

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Working at the RAMSAR listed Koorangang wetlands to create salt marsh habitat. (c) ISV

Over the two week project, a group of strangers became a close knit family sharing memories and making friendships that will last a lifetime. I appreciate everyone for sharing their stories, stepping outside their comfort zones and committing to be part of the movement that is creating a more considerate and sustainable world.

“It has been a great opportunity to participate in this project and know that the work I am doing is making a lasting difference in the area. My time in Australia has been nothing short of amazing and I am happy that I chose to help ISV and CVA with this project.”

Sean Atamdede, University of California Los Angeles

Click here to find out more about volunteering in Australia.

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