Meet Rachel Lowry, Wwf Australia Chief Conservation Officer

Meet Rachel Lowry, WWF-Australia Chief Conservation Officer

Rachel Lowry is a fiercely inspiring woman. As the WWF-Australia Chief Conservation Officer, she works with experts to develop solutions to problems that threaten nature and our wellbeing.

Home is …

where the grass is long, the trees stand tall and the Maribyrnong River idly passes by. My husband and I both enjoyed childhoods where nature play was a prominent feature across our happiest memories. Once we became parents, we took a giant leap and purchased an old fixer-upper home on the river so that our children could build similar memories. The first time a swamp wallaby jumped by our lounge room window I was certain in that moment that we had made the right decision, and it has been home ever since.

How I start my day …

I am not a morning person. I’d love to say I start my day with a spring in my step and some nutritious superfood-inspired smoothie, but truth be told, I war with my alarm. Thank the heavens one of my children was blessed with my husband’s early bird gene and I can turn my attention to the child who, like me, is not a natural early riser. Somehow despite my lack of enthusiasm for mornings, we all manage to get to where we need to be on time each day … just.

The first time a swamp wallaby jumped by our lounge room window I was certain in that moment that we had made the right decision, and it has been home ever since.

As Chief Conservation Officer at WWF-Australia, I lead a team of conservation practitioners who work with leading experts to develop solutions to wicked problems that threaten nature, and therefore our wellbeing. I’ve known from a young age that I wanted to work with animals. In high school, I started to understand that I wanted to work not just with them, but on behalf of them. As I reached university my passion well and truly expanded from “animals” across to wildlife and wild places as a whole. Now that I am 20 years into what has been an incredibly rewarding career, I know that my next 20 years will be dedicated to working with values-aligned teams that find win-win pathways that regenerate Australia and deliver benefits to both people and nature.

What I love most about my job …

I love the freedom and licence within my current role to embrace innovation. I work for an organisation that understands that business as usual approaches to conservation won’t win the day. Today, I approved a project that will trial heat-activated irrigation systems to help flying fox populations adapt to and survive our warming summers.

I truly believe that those who depend on us for their survival — including our children and our wildlife — deserve nothing but the best from us all.

Whether it is using blockchain technology to help increase seafood supply chain traceability, trying to design and future-proof nest boxes to increase the survival rates of greater gliders during fires or deploying camera traps to help gain threatened species insights into priority landscapes, I absolutely love working with people who are open to disrupting business as usual and validating new approaches.

What drives me to do the work I do …

My desire to leave the planet in a condition that will ensure the wellbeing of those who walk after me. I truly believe that those who depend on us for their survival — including our children and our wildlife — deserve nothing but the best from us all. That keeps me driven even when the challenges seem steep.

On work–life balance …

On the weeks that I do achieve that magic concept of work–life balance, I feel a sense of wholeness and immense gratitude. On the weeks that I don’t, which in 2020 was more frequent than usual due to the extraordinary year we all had, the gratitude doesn’t shift. When I’m home, I’m comforted by the fact that I am raising my family as a team committed to having one another’s backs. When I work, I do my best to champion a culture committed to helping one another make sure that if we didn’t nail it this week, we’ll try again next week. I don’t feel like I can ask for much more than that.

On success …

If I can lead effective teams through high-impact pathways across issues that genuinely matter, and enjoy the journey while doing so, I’m confident that I will reflect on my career as being a successful one. However, until we manage to achieve systemic change, and truly secure a new deal for both people and nature, like many conservationists, I’ll keep trying to forge new pathways until we see the current trends of nature-based loss reversed.

On travelling …

My career over the past 20 years has led me to some incredible parts of the world. From working with servals in Zimbabwe and Grévy’s zebras in Kenya to providing keynote speeches in countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, I can certainly say that travel has helped broaden both my experiences as a conservationist and love for the work that I do. And while travel does speak to my adventure streak, I actually work hard to limit it. Climate change considerations make travel difficult to justify unless absolutely necessary. My most memorable trip at WWF was when I visited the WWF team in the Solomon Islands. That trip required me to jump on and off boats as we interviewed climate-impacted communities working with WWF on adaptation strategies. It was both a sobering experience, as I listened to first-hand accounts of how climate change is impacting livelihoods already, but also humbling to be in a position to amplify such critical voices.

On a new world …

My idea of a worthy new world would be one steeped in fairness.

What I do to blow off steam …

Read. I’m a prolific reader.

What’s next for me personally …

I have two years until my oldest child starts high school and my youngest child starts primary school. I’m really mindful that this two-year window needs to be harnessed and filled with lots of incredible adventures. We’ve set a family goal of exploring as much of Australia as we can over this time and have a camp trailer loaded and ready to roll. So, all that leave I have been storing up will soon be put to very good use!

What’s next for me professionally …

Twenty twewnty-one is being dubbed the biodiversity super-year, with both global biodiversity and climate negotiations scheduled. I’m looking forward to working with the WWF team to make the absolute most of that opportunity, with the hope that by the end of the year we’ll have the makings of a New Deal for People and Nature landed. Fingers crossed.

Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan

Kate Duncan is the Editor of WellBeing and WILD. She loves surfing, creating raw desserts, flowing through nourishing yoga sequences and spending time with her new pooch, Maribou.

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