Megan McKinney


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Tell us a little about yourself – what are you passionate about?

I truly love native fauna and am interested in the processes involved in balancing human interaction and impacts on native fauna and threatened species. I love the challenge of assessing habitat and finding animals in the natural environment during surveys (or a night walk/bushwalk!).

I love teaching people about nature and showing them all the tiny creatures hiding under our noses. I’m also passionate about community and giving back, and hope to instil this in my children as they grow.


Where did you grow up? What is your earliest memory about science?

I grew up in north-eastern NSW. My family spent a lot of time traipsing through the bush on weekends as my Dad worked in land and water conservation for the state government. From a young age, I’d go out on field trips with my Dad, looking for rocks and helping identify plants.


What did you do after you left school?

After year 12, I spent a year studying nursing before transferring to zoology and animal physiology at the University of New England. I studied part of my degree part-time and volunteered at a zoo to gain experience.

After Uni, I started working with threatened native species for the Northern Territory government in Alice Springs. I later worked for National Parks in central Australia with a focus on fire management and threatened species, completing a research project on an endangered skink.

I then worked in the US for the University of Florida and Mississippi State University on research projects focussed on the Florida snail kite and agricultural conservation involving driving airboats around lakes in Florida and working with both vertebrates and invertebrates.

I came back to Australia in 2012 and worked as Senior fauna ecologist for a consultancy in the mining industry where I spent a lot of time travelling to remote parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory. I conducted fauna surveys, baseline studies and long-term monitoring.


What do you do now?

I currently work for a Brisbane-based consultancy within the development sector, where our team conducts flora and fauna surveys to quantify potential and suitable habitat for threatened and common species. My current role involves on-ground fauna assessments, as well as working through local, state and federal approval processes, to balance development needs with native fauna requirements.


Tell us the story of your proudest achievement;

I have loved working with all the threatened species I’ve been involved in, from cryptic lizards and raptors which nest on lakes to pollinating invertebrates and large arboreal rodents. I spent many weeks sitting in 40+ degree heat watching a species of skink through binoculars to quantify the species’ behaviour, feeding and diet. This work expanded the limited data available on the species and supports its federal conservation listing under the EPBC Act. The days of 3:45am alarms and being stationed next to a decomposing cow carcass through heatwaves just made it all the more interesting!


Why did you become a Curious Minds STEM Coach?

I love the idea of sharing my experiences and potentially inspiring others to get involved in a career they are passionate about and may lie a little outside of the box.


What advice would you give to current female students thinking of pursuing a career in STEM?

Be open to many opportunities. Embrace moving to new places and meeting new people. And volunteer work is amazingly fulfilling and can open up many doors.

Be adventurous! Be different! And never be afraid for ask for help.