Rene Burgess is Acting Ranger in Charge of Marine Operations in the Great Barrier Reef and Marine Parks Region, based on the Sunshine and Fraser Coast.
Why did you decide to become a ranger?
There was no decision-making involved, it was just inevitable. A deep-seated fascination (bordering on obsession, I am told) about the natural world’s form and function, and how each living thing is dependent on the next, has piqued my curiosity and innate desire to protect it since my earliest childhood memory.
How long have you worked in national parks?
Not very long in comparison to the footsteps of most Rangers I humbly follow—only since 2006.
Which parks have you worked in?
I’ve worked in North and South Cooloola Recreation Area, in the Great Sandy National Park; and I’m now working in the Great Sandy Marine Park.
What is your most memorable moment?
The call offering me a position as a ranger!!
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
It’s impossible to single out just one experience! As is the case with every Park Ranger, I consider myself blessed by a plethora of opportunities and experiences, all of which have left lasting impressions. I am grateful for every single day that I wear Herbie on my shoulder.
Most of all, I relish the quiet, solitary places where I can reconnect and reset – the Simpson Desert (Munga-Thirri National Park); Bladensberg National Park; lighthouses (Woody, Double Island Point and Sandy Cape on K’Gari); and the variety of landscapes encountered along the Cooloola Great Walk.
Then, on the water, there are those perfect glass-out days on the ocean; a trip on our marine parks vessel, Reef Ranger, to Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot islands, coming eye-to-eye with inquisitive marine wildlife like seabirds, manta rays, humpback and Southern right whales, leaping dolphins and dozy dugong. These experiences still take my breath away, every time!
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
The best part is the sheer variety of work and learning experiences! The many opportunities to watch and learn; and connect Mother Nature’s intricate dots.
I also value the chance to network with other Rangers, as well as visitors and children, cross-pollinating knowledge and skills. And inspiring others to nurture and protect.
I also love the constant adjustment required to achieve the delicate balance of providing opportunities and places for people to connect with nature on the one hand; and the protection of that very same (sacred) thing on the other.
The best part is the opportunity to be inquisitive about the natural environment—learning about, and from nature— and presenting the park or forest to the community who enjoy the area you help manage.
What is your top tip for visitors to parks for bushwalking?
Do some ‘legwork’ before you leave home on where you’re planning on walking – the distance, resources, terrain and vegetation type. Check the weather forecast and web pages (especially Park alerts) prior to departure for information that may impact your plans. Tell someone who cares about your bushwalk – communicate a contingency plan in case things don’t exactly to plan.
What is your top tip for campers?
Respect – the environment, self, others, public property and the effort required to maintain facilities for all to enjoy, for our future generations.