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Graduate - Liam Banyer

Liam Banyer
Liam Banyer

Liam Banyer worked with conservation seed banks across Australia to develop a project costing framework. Because the Partnership plans projects at a national scale across multiple jurisdictions, and these projects involve various organisations and different costs, it was essential to have a practical tool for costing field work and the curation of ex situ conservation collections – Liam developed a project costing tool that makes project planning significantly easier and more efficient, as well as providing realistic costs for ex situ collection and curation across Australia.

Tell us a little about yourself
I moved around quite a bit before coming to Canberra and have lived in places such as Quaama, a tiny town on the NSW South Coast, Sydney's inner and outer-west, the Blue Mountains, Wollongong and the Southern Highlands. I had a varied work history prior to joining the Department as a Graduate in 2013. I worked on boats for a year on the Hawkesbury River near Sydney, drove trucks all over NSW and worked for several years in outdoor education and adventure guiding. From 2009 to 2012 I undertook a Bachelor of Science (Land and Heritage Management) at Wollongong University to learn more about the natural world and how to protect our wonderful environment. I very much enjoyed my studies and decided to apply for the Department of the Environment’s Graduate Programme to put my education into practice and to do some good for the environment.

What interested you about working in the environmental field?
I have always been passionate about the environment. As a child, my family holidays were spent fishing or boating on the lakes of the Snowy Mountains or bushwalking on the mountain trails. I also spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid, playing in the forests and rivers of the south coast, catching yabbies, searching for great swimming holes and climbing trees. As I got older, this connection with the natural world continued and I began working in environmental education in order to share this passion with others. I became increasingly concerned with the challenges we face as a society in ensuring the continued health of our environment, and decided to pursue a career path in which I could learn about and help to implement solutions to environmental problems.

When did you join the Department and where are you currently working?
I joined the Department in 2013 as a graduate and am currently working in the Green Army Section, Biodiversity Conservation Division. The Green Army Programme is an environment and heritage conservation programme that engages young Australians to help address local, regional and national conservation challenges, while also increasing their practical skills and experience.

What was your role with the Australian Seed Bank Partnership?
My third rotation during the graduate year was with the Australian Seed Bank Partnership (ASBP) at the Australian National Botanic Gardens. This rotation allowed me to gain a variety of experiences including participating in seed collecting and reconnaissance trips and helping to establish a new population of a threatened plant in the ACT. I also gained valuable experience liaising with national and international stakeholders on seed collecting projects and took the lead on a three month project to develop a costing framework for ASBP projects.

I developed new skills including conducting research and project mapping using online botanical databases. I also worked on aspects of communication for the partnership including editing and uploading stories for the website.

What did you enjoy about working for the Partnership? Was there a particular highlight?
The best thing about working for the ASBP was having the opportunity to work with many passionate and knowledgeable people on diverse and interesting projects. I was able to participate in projects as varied as developing project plans for seed collecting, working with volunteers to clean, count and store seeds in the seed bank and digging up buried seeds in the alpine bogs and fens of Mt Ginini while assisting a resident seed biologist in her studies of key alpine species. While the majority of work was office based, the seed collection, threatened species establishment and research field trips were definitely highlights.

Did you make any surprising discoveries about plants and seeds when you were working for the ASBP?
There were many surprises for me working in the ASBP, having fairly limited knowledge of seeds and horticulture generally coming into the position. For example, the variety of conditions required for different seeds to be successfully germinated (such as diurnal or seasonal cycles) was truly astounding. And the hours and resources put in by biologists and volunteers to establish this information in the name of conservation was also amazing. I was also surprised to discover how much information about threatened species of plants and where they occur is publicly available online through applications such as the Australian Seed Bank Online Resource (made possible by the ASBP, its Partners and the Atlas of Living Australia). This is a wonderful resource for conservationists, researchers, policy makers, and the general public.

How do you relax after work?
I usually start with the (long) cycle home along the bike tracks to Gungahlin. It is nice to see the sun setting and watch the Kangaroos grazing in the grassland reserves of Canberra’s north. On the longer days I tend to do a bit of gardening or go for a walk through the suburbs, maybe to the local lakes. Weekends are definitely a time for catching up with friends, family or going for a bushwalk around Canberra or the coast.