Staff profile: Jaynia Sladek

Position title:
Technical Officer
Ornithology Collection
+612 9320 6322
Contact Jaynia Sladek using the form below


I am a bit of an all-rounder and late starter in science. After leaving school in Year 10 I worked at a number of things from credit control to managing horse studs. At 25 I undertook the Higher School Certificate at TAFE. After this, university beckoned so I began a combined degree in Marketing and Systems Agriculture. However,it was soon apparent that biology was more interesting to me than marketing, so I opted out in favour of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biology.

A first year lecture in Invertebrate Zoology brought the revelation that invertebrates are fascinating. So, I began volunteering one day per week at Macquarie University's (now defunct) Key Centre for Biodiversity and Bioresources (KCBB) sorting invertebrate pitfall and litter samples. The Centre offered me a position as Research Assistant working on a project which examined the impacts of burning and cattle grazing on forest invertebrates. The final year of my B.Sc. was finished part-time while working full-time at the KCBB.

In 1998 I was lucky enough to get a position as Technical Officer for the Invertebrate Division at the Australian Museum. For three years I worked in the Invertebrate Division across all collections, doing everything from fieldwork to data entry, while undertaking a part-time Master of Environmental Science by coursework and thesis. After this I spent 2 years as Acting Executive Officer for the Science Division. In June 2004 I stepped down from that role to go back to being a Technical Officer, this time crossing the taxonomic boundary into the Vertebrate Division to work with the bird collection. As I had no background in birds (or even in vertebrates!) I completed a course in Avian Biology at Charles Sturt University to facilitate working with birds.

The role of Technical Officer in the Bird Collection is very varied and interesting. My main task is to help Dr Walter Boles curate the collection. A typical week might involve conducting an inventory of specimens; sorting and categorising eggs, nests and study skins at our offsite store; updating the database; getting specimens or data for visitors; packing specimens for loans; supervising volunteers; picking up and processing donated specimens from the public, WIRES or NPWS; and answering enquiries from various people. When Walter is on leave, I act as Collection Manager in his place. I am constantly learning on the job about bird ecology, biology, taxonomy and behaviour, as well as finding out intriguing bird facts. It's a great job!

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