I trained as a general nurse and graduated from Orange Base Hospital in 1983, then worked in Wollongong and Blayney before joining the Royal Australian Air Force. There I participated in aero medical evacuations, field support, hospital ward duties and health assessments and was posted or attached to medical flights in Melbourne, Richmond, Townsville and Adelaide. When I left the RAAF I finally found my niche in the operating theatres at Westmead Hospital. I remained with that specialty, although in various hospitals, for over 12 years.
I tried for several years to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I nursed part time while running my own remedial massage therapy business and going out bush with the Air Force reserve. I started my degree in Horticultural Science in 1998 at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), when my daughter Elen was in preschool, graduating in 2004. With a degree in horticulture I worked in garden maintenance for 12 months, a job I decided was for the birds (or at least for someone much younger). I discovered bees, both honeybee and native, while doing the Apiculture unit in the horticulture degree. When I began my Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree, in 2006, I was lucky enough to be given a project which involved the Australian stingless bee Austroplebeia australis. I've become intrigued by these little creatures and am very fond of them.
I began my PhD candidature at UWS in 2008, studying A. australis and their potential as an alternative (to the honey bee) crop pollinator. I've also been looking at their foraging behaviour and energy expenditure, compared to other Australian stingless bee species. I have been able to gain a better understanding of their life cycle and life span. Under the guidance of and in collaboration with Dr Anne Dollin, of Aussie Bee, we have been working to try and solve some of the taxonomic puzzles posed by the bee species within the genus Austroplebeia. One of my greatest pleasures has been meeting and speaking with some of the dozens of stingless bee enthusiasts and experts in Queensland and northern NSW. It's such a pleasure to spend time with people who are so passionate about our native bees.
I submitted my dissertation, “Investigations into the Biology, Behaviour and Phylogeny of a Potential Crop Pollinator: the Australian Stingless Bee, Austroplebeia australis”, for examination in March 2012 and this was approved by UWS in February 2013. Graduation and the award of a degree of Doctor of Philosophy are scheduled for April 2013.
During my many and varied studies I've become more appreciative of the importance of diversity within our lives and our environment. It's been a privilege getting to know our native stingless bees, up close and personal, and I really have come to love them. I now want to share my passion for bees, of all kinds, with other people and increase community awareness of their importance in our lives. Hopefully we can all learn together and, in so doing, help in their conservation.