Meryl Schiller – Ranger in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region
How would you describe your job to someone at a BBQ?
It’s pretty varied – I’m involved in biodiversity conservation, volunteer and community engagement, fire management, and making sure visitors are happy and doing the right thing in our parks.
My role in this region also gives me a unique opportunity to make connections and build relationships with Kaurna, Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Ngarrindjeri people, which is something that is close to my heart.
Being able to help facilitate contact and make it easier for the government and Indigenous groups to understand each other and work together is really rewarding.
I have Aboriginal heritage on my mother’s side of the family – we belong to the Larrakia people of Darwin. Having Aboriginal heritage and working as a park ranger has helped me to understand what my heritage means to me, what other people’s heritage may mean to them, and how we can work together with our shared histories, cultures and futures.
How did you get into this line of work?
I knew I wanted to be a ranger from a really young age. As a kid, our family spent a lot of time camping and hiking in parks. I used to see the park rangers at work and thought that would have to be the best job in the world.
I studied at Urrbrae Agricultural High School and went on to study Environmental Management at Flinders University. I was able to tailor this course to include some community engagement subjects, as that is something I’m also passionate about. It’s not enough for scientists and environmentalists to conserve and protect the environment – the rest of society needs to be on board as well. Engaging the community is an important part of raising awareness and getting everyone involved.
After my studies, I spent four years at Christmas Island National Park doing some field work on flora and fauna. It provided a great base as it was so remote that I was able to try my hand at just about everything.
I then came back to South Australia and landed a Graduate Park Ranger role, and the rest is history.
What do you encounter in a ‘normal’ day on the job?
There’s no normal day in this job. It gets most interesting when I’m the on-call duty officer. I’ve fielded lots of calls from the public concerned about the welfare of wildlife. It’s a great opportunity to educate the public about wildlife as well as having extra eyes and ears to the ground in our parks.
I once got a call from someone who thought they saw a wombat stuck in a fruit tree. After asking a few questions I found out it was actually a possum, just as I had suspected!
There’s also a community engagement aspect to being a ranger, which I really enjoy. I once took part in a junior ranger challenge and was asked some great questions from the kids like ‘where do rocks come from?’ and ‘how do eggs get made in the birds?’ I love seeing kids fascinated by nature.
Lots of my friends tell me how lucky I am to have this job – a while back I sent them a picture of me in the office doing some filing to show them that I’m not always out and about in parks. I spend around 50 per cent of my time in the office and the other 50 per cent in parks.
What’s something you really enjoy about your job?
I love the comradery between the rangers, parks and natural resource management staff when things get hectic. There’s often an intense demand on your time and you can feel like you need to be in three places at once.
We are there for each other to talk things through. We understand and look out for each other and everyone is always willing to help out. And if you’re stressed, the bush is the best place to take a breather and regroup!
What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen at Cobbler Creek Recreation Park?
I’ve been at Cobbler Creek Recreation Park on the Valley Circuit when the pink gums were flowering. The birds and bees were loving it. It was a wonderful moment seeing everything come alive – the colours and sounds were amazing.
What are your insider tips about Cobbler Creek Recreation Park?
Take a late afternoon stroll along the Porosa Track. Stop for a picnic at the Teakle Ruins – and don’t forget to bring your picnic rug. Head down to the creek afterwards and enjoy the sounds of the water running and the birds singing. Take a moment to absorb the tranquillity of this place and gaze at the dappled sunlight coming through the trees.
Throughout the month of October, Cobbler Creek Recreation Park is being celebrated as Park of Month – an initiative between Nature Play South Australia and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
For more insider tips on what to do on your next visit, check out 5 treasures in Cobbler Creek Recreation Park.
(Main image courtesy of Jason Tyndall Nature Play SA)