Croc spotting - just part of the job when working in the Far North!

RPS has been supporting the next generation of environmental consultants in Cairns as part of a student placement program with James Cook University. And, as current student Ashley Reilly can attest – it really is a great way to get ‘real life’ experience!

“Well, my colleague Monique Palmer and I were conducting our weekly surface water monitoring at one of the quarry pits near the Barron River in Cairns,” Ashley explained. “It’s known that crocodiles live in the pits. So, we always go in pairs, we use long sampling poles. We’re extremely cautious.

“This day I was walking up to the bank, talking to Monique and as we’re grabbing the water sample, she suddenly yells – CROC! She sees a croc surface a few metres away. Obviously, we immediately moved. But it definitely gave me a fright to see it, even though you know they’re in there.

“We think it might have known our movements because we’d be going to that pit the same day each week to get the sample. Long story short, we don’t sample from that pit anymore!”

Croc spotting in Far North Queensland - croc spotted in one of the quarry pits

A croc spotted in another quarry pit, not far from the pit where Ashley saw one

On-the-job training

Ashley, who is in her final year of a Bachelor of Environmental Practice (majoring in corporate environmental management), says croc spotting is just part of the colourful job.

“We see all sorts. We see such cute animals, like last week we were sampling groundwater up in Tinaroo and there were pademelons and wallabies jumping around. And then we also came across an eastern brown snake a few months ago, plus the crocodile. So, it’s a balance – best of both worlds.”

She says the work experience element of her degree has been instrumental in setting her career path.

“Before reaching out to RPS and getting an opportunity to work here, I didn’t know what kind of job I could do after finishing my degree. I assumed government or council work. When I started here, I found the work really interesting.

“I had no idea you could work as a consultant and work with multiple clients. This experience has given me direction at university and set me on a career trajectory I didn’t know was an option at the beginning of my degree.”

On the job training - part of a student placement program with James Cook University - pic part of Croc spotting in Far North Queensland

Ashley working in the field in Far North Queensland

The benefits of student programs

Cairns General Manager, Megan Davis, says supporting James Cook University students has been a great success. “Ashley is proving to be a valuable member of our team, so much so that she is now employed as a casual environmental technician while she finishes her studies.

“We’re also welcoming another student soon. It’s great to give students the opportunity to have ‘real world’ experiences – and that includes croc spotting, a challenge only we face in the Far North!”

Ashley and Monique in a field of sunflowers - for 'croc spotting in Far North Queensland' story

Not just croc spotting - there's sunflower spotting too! Ashley with Senior Environmental Consultant, Monique Palmer.

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