Marine biologist, surfer and model Brinkley Davies grew up on an acreage in the hills of the Fleurieu peninsula in South Australia. Her childhood was spent exploring her curiosity for native Australian wildlife and sharing waves with the abundant marine life in the area. Since qualifying as a marine biologist, Brinkley has worked and volunteered with numerous marine not-for-profits but is equally as passionate about finding solutions for the challenges faced by Australia’s terrestrial wildlife.
1.Tell us about some of the marine not-for-profits you have worked with?
My experience volunteering with AMWRRO (Australian Marine Wildlife Research and Rescue Org) during university was what really inspired me to get out there and learn more. After finishing my degree, I volunteered in Exmouth as a Whale Shark Guide, where I got to see the Ningaloo Reef for the first time.
I had some amazing experiences in Fiji in 2015, where I met the great Mike Neumann from Beqa Adventure Divers. We spent 10 solid days diving with 80-100 bull sharks, learning about the conservation of Beqa Lagoon and its marine life. I was later fortunate enough to volunteer with the Cascadia Research Collective on a field trip off Kona, Big Island, Hawaii where we studied, photographed, tagged and tracked toothed whales ( Odontocetes ). This was one of the most rewarding volunteer roles I have had.
Earlier this year, I visited Miami Shark Lab, while on a trip with Discovery Channel and Lokai. I assisted Neil Hammerschlag with his research, tagging and biopsy sampling some sandbar sharks and nurse sharks, off the coast of Florida. In May I headed up to Ningaloo for the Whale Shark Season where I spent two months helping with Ecocean Whale Shark Research, as well as working as a Dive Master and guide out on the reef.
2. What kind of research were you doing out at Ningaloo and how were you collecting data?
I volunteered alongside founder and head researcher Brad Norman of Ecocean Whale Shark Research and Conservation. I helped mark spot patterns on the Whale sharks and used receivers to search for tagged animals in the area. Brad and I spent quite a few days out on Ningaloo, swimming with Whale sharks and photographing their spot patterns, while also keeping an eye out for existing tags, and looking out for new scars and new animals. The satellite tags ended up arriving late in the season so I missed out on seeing the deployment of them, although I gained a lot of knowledge about what data is gained and also how they work.
3. Where do you live now and what is so special about the area?
Home for me is currently the west coast of South Australia, in a town called Port Lincoln. This area is so special to me as the ocean here is raw and full of life and the beaches are still so untouched. It’s the only place I have been in the world, where the number of sea lions and dolphins out number people in the surf. The Great Australia Bight is home to many species, interestingly 85% of the species here are found nowhere else in the world. We also have amazing terrestrial wildlife, a variety of species of macropods, wombats, birds of prey, and reptiles.
4. What are some of the environmental challenges facing this area?
South Australia as a whole is at constant battle with the oil and gas industry and their plans to go ahead with deep sea drilling in the Bight. This year BP pulled out of their proposal, but I am sure they will keep trying. This is a huge risk to the whole ecosystem, land and sea, not the mention the industries that rely on the ocean, such as commercial fishing and tourism.
The most obvious land-based environmental issue to me, is the astonishing and disturbing amount of land that is cleared for farming. From Port Lincoln all the way up past Ceduna, the barren and dry landscape that was once scrub, continues forever. The lack of native scrub means loss of habitat for native species such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus, reptiles, birds of prey to name a few. The clearing of hundreds of thousands of acres of key Australian bush has impacted on PH levels and salinity levels of the lakes also.
Our native animals now face everyday challenges of competing with farmers to live where they once used to.
Farmers consider kangaroos, wombats and other native species “pests” and use this as an excuse to go out shooting regularly, on and near their properties. Unfortunately, a lot of people down here also believe that hunting a marsupial is a means of entertainment. The result is hundreds of joeys in pouches of deceased kangaroos and wombats that soon pass away also.
Last year Coffin Bay National Park, which exists for the protection of native species, conducted a kangaroo cull within the park. I was unable to get a definitive answer as to why but one reason that came out was due to pressure from neighbouring farmers.
5. What are some of the local wildlife native to this area?
We commonly have species such as the western grey kangaroo, koala, wedge tailed eagle, red kangaroo, a variety of snakes, blue-tounge lizards, and bearded dragons.
Some species that are endemic to the Eyre Peninsula are the Pearson island black footed rock wallaby, the sandhill dunnart, the southern emu wren, and the eyre peninsula dragon. Other animals which are listed on IUCN as vulnerable are the greater bilby, greater stick nest rat, heath goanna, southern right whale, yellow footed rock wallaby and Australian sea lion.
Endangered species such as the great white shark, southern brown bandicoot, and white bellied sea eagle also reside here.
6. Tell us about the kangaroo joey you rescued.
Bunji is the survivor of an accident we unfortunately had at nighttime with a kangaroo and our 4WD. The mother passed away from the accident and Bunji had fallen out of her pouch. This was pretty traumatic and I want to share our story, as many people hit kangaroos and wombats every single day and never stop to check on the animal, or it’s pouch.
When we found Bunji she was pink, known as “pinky”, which means she had no fur and her eyes were only just opening. I immediately put her straight on my bare skin under the three jackets I was wearing. She slept on my stomach in bed with us for the first few weeks to help her feel as if she was in the pouch and give her the best chance of survival. The most important thing with rescuing animals this young is warmth, followed by hydration. Kangaroos cannot be given cows milk as a substitute, they will pass away if you give it to them. They must be given warm water, or a Kangaroo milk substitute called Wombaroo, or similar.
Bunji was lucky to be two weeks old when we got her, we were told to not get attached or expect her to survive because they die easily of many causes in this vulnerable state.
I made it my absolute mission to make sure she survived. My partner Ty and I put in so many hours of effort to make sure she had the best chance of survival. This included five feeds a day and getting up in the middle of the night all of which, has really paid off. She is now three months old, has a full coat of fur and has started hopping.
7. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced that you didn’t expect to in raising a joey?
I have learnt SO much about kangaroos and macropods. One of the greatest challenges was keeping her warm. We had a pouch and heat pad set up but she preferred being on us until she started getting fur.
Joeys rely on their mum 100% for at least a year, they wont go to the toilet unless they are stimulated and if it’s not done properly they can die from that too.
There was a lot to learn, and I feel as though we are an encyclopedia of kangaroo health at the moment. It has made me realise how the majority of the people who live in South Australia actually don’t know much about the native animal we have all grown up around, and how important and unique they are.
8. What is so special about Australian wildlife?
We have so many amazing species here with great biodiversity. After travelling to many places in the last few years, my appreciation for Australian flora and fauna has grown exponentially. Although we have many species which society call “deadly”, our native wildlife both in the ocean and on land continue to fascinate me.
9. Do you think Australians do enough to conserve or appreciate our local fauna?
I don’t think so and its most likely due to a lack of knowledge. The fact that many big cities are so far removed from our native wildlife or environments is probably why.
Where I live, in Port Lincoln, we’ve grown up around many of these animals but people still lack the passion to conserve the areas which need to be conserved. I hope to be able to work towards programs in the future that encourage people to want to learn more and be involved in protecting our Australian wildlife and land.
10. What are you most passionate about and what are you working on next?
I am most passionate about protecting our environment. I am all about not forcing opinions on people but rather acting as a leader for future generations and others to follow suit.
I’m currently working to register my own not-for-profit group, with a mission of both protecting our wildlife, and educating people about wildlife internationally. I have a scope of educational material on environmental, and wildlife issues, plus many more exciting things that I look forward to sharing in the near future.
One of the greatest tools in this day and age is experience, volunteering and sharing it with the world. Inspiration drives passion and influences people to get out and see things for themselves, which I think is one of the biggest pushes behind the next generation of wildlife and environment warriors coming up. I want to inspire people to learn about the wild and become passionate about saving it.