Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Growing Up Was a Walk on the Wild Side; an Unusual Outback Childhood Inspired Leanne Bridges' Love for Nature and the Environment

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Growing Up Was a Walk on the Wild Side; an Unusual Outback Childhood Inspired Leanne Bridges' Love for Nature and the Environment

Article excerpt

Byline: Genevieve Kennedy

A CHILDHOOD spent in some of Australia's most remote national parks inspired University of the Sunshine Coast graduate Leanne Bridges to a near-perfect score in her Animal Ecology degree.

The 30-year-old Mooloolah Valley resident, who grew up in some of the most spectacular parts of Central Australia due to her father Andrew's work as a park ranger, developed a keen interest in nature from an early age.

Her first home was in Arltunga Historical Reserve, east of Alice Springs, and her family moved to Watarrka National Park when she was three.

"My dad's work involved making sure visitors to the park were safe and enjoying their visit, and looking after the natural environment," Leanne recalled.

"Sometimes we had injured animals in the pantry - I remember having a bilby and a tawny frogmouth around the house at one stage.

"In the bush there were brumbies, camels, mulga snakes and incredible Perentie goannas, which seemed like dinosaurs when I was that little.

"I very much wanted to be a part of their world. If I'd known about Doctor Dolittle when I was little, I would have wanted to be him."

After starting her education with School of the Air, Leanne and her family moved to Alice Springs, where she lived until she turned 21.

She remembers the colour scheme of The Outback as being "like nothing else".

"I loved spending time in the bush behind our house. My older sister and younger brother would go walking there, stepping heavily to scare off snakes, and we had our dog to guide us back if we got lost.

"For a lot of people it might seem like a hostile environment, but I always felt safe.

"Even after I moved away, I never forgot that feeling. The desert gets in your blood, it's so unique."

After working in industries including real estate and as a technical assistant for Boeing Australia, Leanne decided to turn her passion for wildlife conservation into a career by enrolling at the University of the Sunshine Coast in 2013.

Initially nervous about the prospect of attending university, she said she had embraced the chance to delve into the science of the natural world.

"Spending my formative years in wild areas instilled in me such a high regard for nature and an understanding that we humans have the capacity to do significant damage.

"It wasn't until later on that I realised my interest in conservation issues, and my desire to share my passion for wild areas with people, could become a career path for me.

"I loved studying ecology at USC - in the classroom and especially in the field - and all my lecturers were so passionate about what we were studying."

Leanne received a University Medal along with her Bachelor of Science (Animal Ecology) at her recent USC graduation ceremony, after achieving a grade point average of 6. …

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