Decades of Girraween park work rewarded
FOR Jolene McLellan, working at Girraween National Park has been a labour of love.
Ms McLellan began working at the park in 1996, and has been a ranger there ever since.
After decades of work in community engagement and research, she received an Australia Day Achievement medallion.
"I was pretty chuffed, pretty proud (because) I have been here for a while and you try to do what you can and it is nice to get that little bit of recognition," she said.
She said a career which allowed her to protect the environment had always been a priority.
"I wanted to do something to help protect the environment and our wildlife and I guess I've always encouraged my girls to do something that you enjoy," she said.
"I love being out in wild areas and working with wild creatures so I was very lucky when I got it."
Ms McLellan has spent much of her career researching Girraween's wombat population.
"I've always loved wombats so for 20 years I've been working on finding out more about Girraween's wombats because we've got a pretty unique population here," she said.
"It's the last remaining population in Queensland. Even though they're common throughout Australia."
While spotting one in the flesh is rare, she said remote cameras at wombat burrows had helped them to observe the population.
"Setting up the cameras you get to have a good look at what they do and find out about their behaviours," she said.
She said one of the most special experiences was capturing a mother and two baby wombats, along with her mentor, the late Bill Goebel.
The park's research into the wombat population has continued.
"We've been trying to engage with some universities to do some honours of PHD studies to find out more about them, if their population is healthy and if there's anything we can do to ensure they don't become endangered," she said.
Ms McLellan also had the opportunity to travel to a ranger conference in Tanzania in 2012.
"It was an amazing experience," she said.
She said rangers from all over the world had converged at the event, and it was a great chance to share ideas and discuss national parks' challenges around the world.
Amid some great highlights, Ms McLellan has also been witness to some heartbreaking moments for Girraween.
"I've been here for two major wildfires," she said.
"And I guess being part of the awesome community that we're in, we get through. It's always heartbreaking because we'll try for months leading up to the fire seasons.
"The 2002 fire was pretty devastating, half the park burnt down."
All in all, she said she was grateful to work in the Granite Belt's patch of paradise.
"I know how lucky I am and I get to work with an amazing bunch of people," she said.