Just another day at the office


My name is Dr Mitch Ladyman. I am a biologist. More specifically a zoologist; actually, a herpetologist……and an ecophysiologist. I am also an environmental consultant. I own a small private company in Perth, Western Australia, called Animal Plant Mineral. Every year, I make a presentation to the third year students of Conservation Biology at UWA on career opportunities. Most of them are completely unaware of the opportunities that exist for field biological consultants.

They look at me all starry-eyed and dreamy as their young minds ebb and flow with romantic notions of field work in far flung places. And why wouldn’t they? I have the best job in the world.

For a start, the accommodation is always top shelf. There is nothing quite so grand as a hot shower and a warm, dry and comfortable bed after a long day of survey work in the drizzle.


Field work is physically demanding, so it is important to have good and wholesome gastronomic extravaganzas prepared fresh for your enjoyment at the end of the day. Meals are frequently consumed in the most wonderful of alfresco settings. Whole skin-on roast pumpkin, fresh out of the coals.

On any and all occasions, how much one enjoys one’s lodging is very much aligned with how well the accommodation is integrated into the receiving environment. Nature retreats can hardly be considered retreats into nature if you eat, sleep and bath in a manner that is disconnected from the environment. I am not at all averse to sharing by quarters with the local wildlife. I find it the most visceral way to truly experience all that nature has to offer.

As far as the work is concerned, a biologist faces many challenges. Two of the greatest challenges are:

1) desperately trying to find highly cryptic fauna in very thick and impenetrable vegetation. Can you spot any animals in this photo?

2) trying to determine the taxonomy of individuals within a genus that has many, many morphological variants (i.e. individuals that look so radically different but could well be the same species based on genetics). Look at how dramatically variable these little froggies are, yet they are all the same species!!

We have a very important job, as biological consultants. In what is typically a very short space of time we have to get out bush, dig in our traps, catch as much as we can, pack up and get home. As hard as all that sounds, we are even expected to work within six figure budgets. This is all very demanding. However, the welfare of our animals is always our #1 priority.

Clearly, judging by the size of this little guys testicles, he too is a very busy little man! I suspect we did him a favour, giving him a ‘night off work’ whilst he was safe and secure in one of the hundreds of aluminium box traps we deploy.

Everybody loves a holiday, but nobody loves to clean up and pack up. As a biological consultant working on the north-western edge of the Tanami desert, hundreds of kilometers from nowhere, sometimes you just can’t be bothered driving home at the end of a long hard trip. So the solution is to just throw a tarpaulin over the vehicle and leave it behind. Then we just call in the helicopters and off we go. To easy!

As I have said countless times over the 20 years as a field biologist, the sun will always set on our survey and we will soon be fortunate enough to wake up in a new location, in a different ecological setting with a whole new suite of animals to pursue. Where we go next is at entirely up to our clients.