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Career choice a natural fit

AN EIGHT-year-old girl finds a green frog in a pond while exploring the bushland around her Eukey property.

She insists on taking it home and raising it as a pet.

The young adventurer would eventually be forced to tearfully return the amphibian to its natural environment but the creature was not the last to find its way into the care of Shelbi Wantling.

Since childhood, Shelbi and her two older sisters have always been happier roaming the paddocks than sitting in front of the TV.

"Having the property at the farm that backs onto Girraween, we've always loved the outdoors," she said.

"We always found new lookouts and places to walk along.

 

"I remember there was a lookout that we called Wantling Mountain."

For the animal lover, the best part of these treks was stumbling across little creatures along the way, many of which she would take it upon herself to adopt.

Over the years the Wantling farm has been home to all means of pets - from your garden-variety dogs, cats, cows, chooks, piglets and goats to ant farms, snails, baby chickens nurtured from birth and even the occasional pet butterfly.

But while Shelbi's love of wildlife and the outdoors was evident from a young age, it took her a little longer to decide how to incorporate her passions into a career.

That all changed on a school trip to the USA in September last year, when Shelbi found herself at California's Yosemite National Park.

Observing the breathtaking scenery, she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

"That really broadened my view. You see that and it's like Girraween but on such a huge scale," Shelbi said.

She decided then and there to be a park ranger and set to work to get her career on track.

The 17 year old got her first taste of the active profession a little closer to home, during a week of work experience at Girraween National Park in the school holidays.

For five days, Shelbi traversed the bush, trimming overhanging shrubs, monitoring fish traps and tagging along on guided walks.

She also helped keep the park facilities running smoothly and had a crash-course in checking camping permits and managing the grounds.

"It was actually better than I expected," the aspiring park ranger said.

"It's just good to be outdoors and not stuck in an office.

"Most of the campers love to talk to you and find out what you're doing. You learn about other people that are staying there."

Amid the technological revolution, Shelbi sometimes feels like a dying breed as more young people move away from nature.

During her week at Girraween she was heartened to see she was not alone, meeting other youth who shared her interest in the outdoors.

"There was a young girl, she was maybe 10, she'd learnt all the flower species off by heart," Shelbi said.

"That gives me hope for the future.

"It's good to know there are other kids into that kind of thing."

After finishing her senior schooling this year, Shelbi plans to meet more like-minded people at Lismore's Southern Cross University, where she hopes to study environmental science/marine management.

Following university, the nature-lover has her sights set on travelling the world as a park ranger.

Her ultimate dream is to return to California's Yosemite National Park and patrol the land that inspired her.

RANGER FOR A WEEK: Stanthorpe State High School student Shelbi Wantling spent a week of her school holidays at Girraween National Park learning the ropes and experiencing the life of a park ranger.
RANGER FOR A WEEK: Stanthorpe State High School student Shelbi Wantling spent a week of her school holidays at Girraween National Park learning the ropes and experiencing the life of a park ranger. Linden Morris

Topics:  careers environment national parks queen of the paddock


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