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Graduate - Cameron Byers

Cameron Byers
Cameron Byers

What interested you about working in the environmental field?
As a kid I had a real love for the sights, sounds, smells and creatures of the Australian bush. My passion for the landscapes of the Australian continent deepened as I grew older and explored them through science, art, literature, photography and driving around the country as an 18 year old sleeping in the boot of my car. I also like to think and dream big and care a lot about building a fairer, more sustainable society. For a big-picture, systems-oriented thinker like me, an environmental dimension pervades every facet of our society whether we accept it or not. Frankly, I view the way we relate to our environment – not just as Australians, but as a species – as the central question facing us this century. Making my career in an area like that is just too thrilling a challenge to resist.

When did you join the Department and where are you currently working?
I joined the Department with the 2015 Graduate intake. After my stint with ASBP, I went to work in the Emissions Reduction Fund, developing methods for carbon abatement in the forestry sector and on the savannas of northern Australia.

What was your role with the Australian Seed Bank Partnership?
My chief role was to produce a review of the ASBP’s 1000 Species Project. I consolidated qualitative and quantitative data sets, consulted on findings with stakeholders from state agencies and NGOs, facilitated strategic and scientific discussions, and then led collaboration among Partners on implementing recommendations that would improve the project’s likelihood of achieving conservation outcomes.

I also researched and wrote a proposal to stimulate future ecological research collaboration with universities, produced web content that helped double the Partnership’s online media reach, and assisted the Secretariat with all aspects of program management as demanded. It was a great place to start learning the ropes about working in government and working in conservation.

What did you enjoy about working for the Partnership? Was there a particular highlight?
Coming in to work for the Partnership was a privilege; I felt very fortunate to be working on a program I could identify with so strongly (and with an office in the beautiful Australian National Botanic Gardens). A particular highlight was participating in two days of strategic discussions with seed scientists, collectors, and researchers from across Australia at the National Steering Committee’s meeting in Melbourne. This meeting gave me an opportunity to present the work I had done beyond the Secretariat’s office, and learn from highly skilled experts setting the direction of ex-situ plant conservation in Australia.

Did you make any surprising discoveries about plants and seeds when you were working for the ASBP?
Heaps more than I could say. But one source of unexpected fascination was Australia’s terrestrial orchids, which are a national treasure. These remarkable little plants survive at a unique cross-Kingdom ecological crossroads depending on symbiotic fungi and deceiving various species of wasps. Aside from being pretty ‘cute’, for me they’re a symbol of the interconnectedness of all living things, and a wonderful example of the chaotic co-evolution of life on Earth.

How do you relax after work?
Most likely by rock climbing, sleeping out in the bush, or in the slam pit at a DIY punk rock show.