My journey has been one with many twists and turns. But somethings that has always kept me grounded is my absolute love for wildlife and nature! My career path until this point had had very little to do with the arts, and instead has been focused on building my career as a wildlife veterinarian.
As a child growing up in far north Queensland surrounded by animals, my dream was always to be a vet and I didn't even consider a life outside of this. But in my first year of high school I learned two things about myself. 1) I didn't mind being the only kid who was excited by the prospect of cleaning out a maggot infested wound, and 2) I could draw.
I couldn't stand to be without a paintbrush or pencil through high school and spent much of my time during maths and physics thinking up my next art project :) At 15 I entered my first local show and was surprised to win first place in the art category. As the years progressed so did the size and quality of my entries, with a number of them standing more than 2 meters. By the time I left school I had been lucky enough to win a number of local show art categories and as a consequence I was the recipient of a small bursary that allowed me to start my university days in an arts degree in Brisbane. As a 17 year old, the prospect of moving to the other end of the state and going to university was exciting, but daunting. My first year was rough, and I soon realised that an arts degree was not for me and worked my way into veterinary science as soon as I could.
I absolutely loved my veterinary training and immersed myself is as understanding as much as I could about anatomy, physiology and treatment of every species. I would spend hours sketching bones, preserved specimens and the specimens we necropsied. Looking back now, this was my artistic outlet and I realise that my desire for art and creation never really left me. But, my vet degree also felt like it was missing a whole part of the animal kingdom. We learnt very little about wildlife, despite being surrounded by it at every turn in Australia. I clearly remember countless times thinking about how I could apply what I was learning about domestic species to wildlife, as all I wanted for my career was to become a wildlife vet. I lapped up every opportunity to learn about animals other than cats, dogs and farm stock and set my sights on doing everything I could throughout my degree to put myself in the best position possible to pursue the direction I really wanted to take. Part of that process involved moving to South Africa part way through my degree to study at The University of Pretoria Vet School, Onderstepoort. During this time I had the amazing opportunity to work at the DeWildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre, and fell desperately in love with cheetahs and African wild dogs. Although I returned to Australia to finish my degree, my longing for Africa meant I returned numerous times over the following years, building my love for all things wildlife.
Jobs in the zoo and wildlife industry are few and far between and often highly competitive, but somehow the stars aligned soon after I completed my degree and I was offered a position as a zoo and wildlife veterinarian at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast in 2006. This cemented my career within the wildlife field and I have spent all the years since passionately dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of Australian native wildlife, and even completed a 6 year PhD on one of our little known wildlife species, sea snakes.
As a wildlife veterinarian I get the rare opportunity to see so many of our precious native species up close and personal and am humbled everyday by the realisation that I often hold the lives of these animals in my hands. I get to observe up close so many of our rarely seen species, some of which are sadly endangered and may not remain long enough in the wild for even the next generation to see. I am blessed to have the unique experience of getting to know the individual personalities of my patients and fall in love with them time and time again. As well as working at the wildlife hospital I also spend a lot of time doing out about in the field, working along side ecologists and researchers studying the lives of many of our unique native species. Through these projects I have gained an even greater appreciation of how amazing, beautiful, robust and yet fragile, our fauna is.
So what is my focus now? Well I am still super passionate about being a wildlife veterinarian and continue to work at both the hospital and in field projects, but more recently I have re-entered the art world and have started exhibiting my recent pieces. Through my art I want nothing more than to share with people how amazing, beautiful and captivating wild animals are! With each piece I hope to show you all the personalities and unique qualities of even our most unseen and little known species. Each and every wild animal plays a role in our world and I am a firm believer that once we see the beauty in something we are more likely to protect it.