Ellen Freeman makes the most of SSAA Bursary for deer research paper

It took Ellen Freeman less than a year after receiving a bursary from the SSAA to present her first research paper to more than 150 of her peers at an international conference. The undergraduate from Central Queensland University co-authored a research paper titled ‘Regulatory control of deer in Australia’ at the Conservation through Sustainable Use of Wildlife Conference in Queensland in September. Her presentation was awarded a special commendation for ‘best student speaker’.

Ellen says she was blown away by the experience of the conference and can’t wait to do her next presentation. “It’s my first time being at a conference like this and I am learning so much. It’s very different to just doing a uni assignment because it’s daunting presenting in front of so many experts in the field,” she said. “I’ve had a great time meeting and listening to everyone here.”

Ellen’s paper was co-authored by Neal Finch, Principal Macrapod Management Officer for the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. It’s unusual for an undergraduate such as Ellen to be involved in research but her enthusiasm really set her apart. “I did two short courses on deer management, which led to me meeting Neal and then he asked me to co-author a research paper with him,” said Ellen. “I had to go to a different university to do the courses but it’s all been worth it.”

The paper focused on deer being classified as pests or game in different jurisdictions. Ellen said survey responses from almost every state and territory indicated wild deer are presenting challenges on both public and private land. “The survey responses, with the exemption of the Northern Territory, showed that wild deer are presenting increasing management issues and there is considerable scope for government departments to greater engage with recreational hunters,” she said. “Populations of deer are still rising and whether you classify deer as game or pest doesn’t matter nearly as much as how they are actually managed.”

Given the recent focus on deer classification across a number of states, Ellen’s research led to a press release and interest from a variety of media outlets.

Ellen says the $1000 she received as part of the SSAA last year went straight into her education. “As a uni student everything is expensive. For example textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars each and you usually have to get one per subject, so that’s four very expensive books I need to buy twice a year,” she said. Ellen is set to complete her Bachelor of Science with a Major in Ecology and Conservation Biology by the end of this year.

“I grew up in Tasmania in a family of recreational deer hunters and that led to a passion for wildlife management,” said Ellen. Despite her drive to become a part of the workforce, Ellen’s passion means she plans to instead go into further research. “Nothing is set in concrete but I am making plans to go to the USA, South America and South Africa to learn about some of their game and wildlife management,” she said.

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