Volunteering with my computer from home

Michelle Stook
Published 13 Aug 2019 
by Eva Finzel 
about  Melbourne  
Eva in her home office.<br/> Eva in her home office.

I was thrilled when I learned in 2015 that staff in the Science and Conservation Centre in Melbourne had a project for me on which I could work with my computer from home at a time that suited me, using my research skills and experience in natural resource/conservation management and social science.

My first project took two years of regular weekly hours to complete. I collected various types of data for most of the Priority Landscapes Bush Heritage has mapped all over Australia, generally around one or more ‘anchor’ reserves. The data related to Native Title, mining, flora and fauna, plus stakeholder information, including documents they had published in relation to the landscape in question. This information is used by staff in landscape-scale conservation planning.

Currently I'm working on two very different jobs. The first is tidying up Bush Heritage’s internal properties database. This should ideally contain all essential pre- and post-purchase information about all reserves and partnerships.

When I started with this work in 2017, I found large gaps in information, in particular for reserves acquired prior to 2002. To fill them I access Bush Heritage’s internal server remotely with my computer, read through the documents stored there for each reserve and enter all relevant information into the database. I like this work because I learn a lot about the organisation and, at least in my mind, visit all reserves.

The second project is to research and write up information about the environmental/ecological and social history of Cravens Peak Reserve in far-west Queensland, together with another volunteer and the Cravens Peak Reserve Manager.

It will hopefully eventually be published online and be available for volunteers and others interested as a hard copy on the reserve. It currently has five sections:

  1. the ecology of the landscape, including geology, landforms, rivers, lakes, flora, fauna, threats and the impact of climate change;
  2. Aboriginal Heritage;
  3. European exploration and settlement;
  4. Management for conservation; and
  5. Vision for the future.

Needless to say, this is a long-term project! Another outcome of this project is to develop a template that can be used to write similar historical records of all reserves. I love this work because it extends my knowledge and I can research and write something that's of use to others.

And then there’s a smaller, third job – being a member of the Volunteer Advisory Committee. The committee provides a volunteer voice in the development and review of strategies, policies, procedures and guidelines that help to improve the work of volunteers and staff, taking the changing needs of the organisation into account.

We also look at ways of developing new and inspiring roles for volunteers. My social science research skills came in handy when we developed and evaluated the 2018 volunteer satisfaction survey. The results of this survey have been used by the committee for the development of the Volunteer Engagement Strategy.

Hopefully Bush Heritage staff will find other interesting work for me once I've finished what I'm doing now. I find it rewarding to be able to use my skills and experiences in research work that's intellectually challenging for me and useful for the organisation and staff I work with.

Working from home suits me very well, even though sometimes I wish I could visit one of the more remote reserves in real life!

Eva in her home office.<br/> Eva in her home office.