Often, when I am asked what I "do" for a job I do some mental logistics on who is asking before I answer.
What do they do?
Because my answer would be a lot like that 2018 Toyota Hilux advertisement with the dad talking about his work to his daughter's class for parents' day.
And like that dad, I think my kid understands me. But when I try to describe it to other people, it comes across a bit mental.
How is all of this put together even a job?
I am a mum who for more than 10 years has had this as my daily work.
I find stuff, hunt stuff, build stuff, break stuff, kill stuff, drive - lots of driving - write stuff, identify stuff, talk about stuff, carry stuff, pick stuff off that wants to bite/kill/adopt me and whip stuff into shapes it forgot it needed to be in.
And it's hard to convey all this variety - except to farmers, who seem to get it.
But when the person asking me what I "do" is a degree-trained scientist, I probably leave the whipping part out.
I might emphasize the "find stuff" part because I am proud of that.
I am very good at finding stuff, whether it is people, crime, dead animals, live animals, ferals, soon-to-be-dead animals, should have been declared dead from the neck up people, rare things, things that haven't been reported for decades, scarred trees and mosquitos.
Recently I was invited to an ecological burn.
I wasn't allowed to set fire to anything, but I was allowed to walk behind it and see what the fire had revealed.
As I was examining movements in the ashy residues and marveling at how this burn had skipped over so many native creatures (by design) I had a reason to reflect on why I might treat my finding stuff like it's a school talk, instead of what it is - science.
And I think it's because so often people like me without a specific science degree downgrade themselves and their knowledge because we are trained by society to think we are less "sciencey".
You know - we are the amateur naturalist, self-taught, hobbyist, citizen scientist, landcarer, retiree, farmer, bush walker and bird spotter.
But this labelling is wrong, and it diminishes people and their skills.
Let's stop doing it.
I have a degree - in arts (so I can spell) - and other science qualifications.
But even now I diss myself when I am asked about the science roles I am in.
But from today I'm going to stop doing this to myself.
Because if I was a science study and someone was assessing the evidence that I find stuff and get it properly verified and into the science databases that direct the Planning Act and Biodiversity Response Planning - the evidence would be clear. I do.
One recent example is the Entrecasteaux's Skink Pseudemoia entrecasteauxii, which is native to south eastern Australia - including islands in Bass Straight.
This one that I found is a new record for the Parks Victoria-managed Pretty Hill Flora Reserve at Orford, Victoria.
It's been 17 years since anyone officially recorded this native reptile within four kilometres of this reserve, and never in it until I was walking through behind the ecological burn last month - and it moved.
A photograph was then shared on the iNaturalist website so that experts in reptiles could identify it.
That identification from three experts then became a verified identification which gets added to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas.
And that becomes a legacy that, should VicRoads ever want to widen the highway beside the reserve, will mean the welfare and future needs of these reptiles will have to be considered. Forever.
Pretty important work in anyone's book.
- Lisette Mill is a landcare facilitator and agvocate based in south west Victoria.