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An update on Work Integrated Learning

An update on Work Integrated Learning – EcoNetwork Reflections

By Courtney Kelly, University of Newcastle.

UPDATE May 2024

I have been very fortunate to undertake my placement with EcoNetwork, as part of the Work Integrated Learning course for my degree. Throughout this placement I have gained valuable experience in both hands-on fieldwork and insightful desk-based tasks.

The completion of desk-based activities, such as the development of plant profiles, has developed my knowledge of coastal plant species and best practices in their management. These tasks have also provided me with insights into the important role EcoNetwork plays in the environmental community within Port Stephens, and the impactful initiatives they support.

Having the opportunity to engage in fieldwork through the Friends of Tomaree National Park has provided me with practical skills in weed species management, and it has been a privilege to connect with passionate members of this group who are dedicated to conserving the Tomaree Peninsula and who generously share their wealth of knowledge.

Other activities I have participated in, including the community forum, annual general meeting and research tasks have been an excellent insight into the vital role volunteer networks play in connecting various organisations and groups with shared interests.

I am very grateful for my placement experience with EcoNetwork and the growth it has provided me, both academically as a student, and personally. I am happy to have been able to contribute to such an amazing organisation and am very thankful to the members of EcoNetwork for being so accommodating.

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome Courtney into our organisation. She was diligent, flexible, adaptable and responded well to our capabilities and our constraints over the course of the year. She was always willing to lend a hand and contribute to whatever task was needed at the time – she even expertly executed a run to the shops when we forgot the raffle tickets!

More aligned to her environmental science skill set, Courtney produced some resources that will be useful for our affiliates. A document that outlined recommendations for the development of EcoNetwork as an organisation will also help us with our ongoing improvement processes. We will also share this information with affiliates soon so you can see if any of the suggestions could be incorporated. On behalf of EcoNetwork, we wish her the very best in her future career and would like to congratulate her on taking up a Graduate Ecologist position with an environmental consultancy in Newcastle. Alison Rogers, supervisor.

UPDATE November 2023

Since starting my placement with EcoNetwork, and in collaboration with the Friends of Tomaree National Park, I have been able to learn many new skills and connect with a range of knowledgeable people. During this placement I have been provided with the opportunity to participate in a number of bush regeneration sessions to tackle a range of weeds. Engaging in these sessions has significantly built my familiarity with coastal plant species and has taught me skills in plant identification and best practice management for environmental weeds.

Among some of my tasks I have been able to help with the creation of a ‘cheat sheet’ of the common weed species prevalent across rehabilitation sites managed by the Friends of Tomaree National Park. I have also been able to help create plant profiles describing the differences between common weed species and their native look-a-likes. Throughout my placement I have been lucky enough to help document common spring flowering plants in the Tomaree heathlands which has not only been very educational but a lot of fun.

I have been provided the opportunity to join EcoNetwork’s Forum and Annual General Meeting, which has allowed me to gain insight into the operation of a community advocacy network. I am so grateful to be able to contribute to the commendable work undertaken by EcoNetwork and its affiliates and look forward to contributing to the Sustainable Living Festival in November.

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Published: 31 Oct 2023