Meet the experts- Jeff Cargill

Wednesday, 27 July, 2022

Driven by inspiring the next generation of ecologists through the building of a nurturing environment at Eco Logical Australia (ELA), Jeff is a lover of a clean data set and the surprising nature of environmental projects.

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Meet Jeff Cargill

1.     How would you describe what you do at dinner parties?

 I tend to stand in the corner at dinner parties and avoid those questions. But my daughter says it best - I'm a plant doctor. I'd much prefer that than what I'd say – I'm a 6'4 guy who likes looking at flowers in the bush.

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Jeff at Mount Augustus in WA

2.     Why do you love Ecology?

I love understanding the different facets of ecology. What interests me most is the scale. You might be looking at an entire landscape or an individual anther on a flower, both in the same day. Why does this plant occur in this area? Is it because of the water, soil, climate, fauna, or other habitat factors? To me, that concept of scale is really fascinating.

3.     What are you most passionate about?

My passion has changed over the past few years, particularly while at ELA. In the beginning, it was all about being the rogue ecologist. Putting on a hat, a backpack and helicoptering into a remote site to be dropped off to head into the bush. It was all about the adventure. As I get a bit older, I identify that same passion in the young ecologists I work with. Now, I’m more passionate about teaching people what I know. Working with and inspiring young people has become just as special as the original passion. It makes my day to take them out in the field for the first time and nurture that passion. It’s nice to remember why we love what we do and share in their excitement. ELA really fosters that.

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Jeff out in the field mentoring the next generation of ecologists.

4.     What achievement are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of the team and who we are at ELA. In the beginning, I was working with one other person. Today, we've grown the ecology team, the sectors we work with and the type of work we do - which is really pleasing. Western Australia is so diverse. From the Kimberley to the South Coast and out east to the desert. I'm delighted by this growth, being able to work in these incredible locations and getting the team involved. It’s a big achievement and makes my work more varied and interesting. With repetitive work, you can get stuck in a mindset and to be honest, it can be challenging working on a 40 degrees Celsius day with 70% humidity while hiking through a creek line! But if you are travelling and working in these incredible places, it makes your job exciting.


5.     How would you love to change the world with ELA?

Educating the general public can change the world. We have people working on bats, koalas, and rare orchids; there's a whole breadth of information we can be getting out to people. Particularly on issues such as bushfires, floods and climate change. We have some very knowledgeable people at ELA.

I see our role at ELA as communicating how we are shaping the environment for the better. One thing is to publish a journal article, but there's a real opportunity to have a good news story about our environmental wins. It's important to show that boots are on the ground and doing good work, like sniffer dogs searching for koalas and bilbies to monitor their numbers.   


6.     What's the most interesting project you've ever worked on?

Oh, that's a tricky question for me. There are different aspects of each project that are interesting to me. I love working on big and complex vegetation mapping projects like in the Pilbara with its diverse system. Then you might get a smaller project with interesting stakeholder interaction, data analysis or environmental approvals. Each job has its own interest. It might be discovering one plant or single orchid that makes the whole trip worth it.


7.     Biology, chemistry, or physics and why?

Biology, for sure. No question about it. I enjoy the interactions and understanding why things are the way they are.


8.     An interesting or fun fact your team or your clients might not know about you?

Some of them I know play an enormous amount of Dungeons and Dragons and run lots of campaigns for people online. Not so weird in our profession, as it turns out there are a few of us. I think it is the science-based aspect of evidence-based work that attracts us. Dealing with facts all day, the dichotomy of a fantasy world away from your day to day is appealing. It’s an escapism thing.


9.     Your bug bear, pet hate or quirk and why?

As I get older, I become less patient. People being kind and compassionate is a bit lost at the moment. It gets me when I see people being terse and assuming people know more than they do. People need to take the time to teach and help others get to a level of understanding, rather than assuming they just know.


10.     Favourite holiday destination?

Easy, Japan. I went with my wife and our kids, and we had a fantastic time. I'm an introvert and I can't stand crowds. So, the idea of Tokyo Disney filled me with fear. I was wowed by how well everything was run. I would go back again. We also went to the snow where we all had snowboarding lessons, it was terrific. The kids picked it up so fast, but my wife and I truly sucked. As a long-time surfer, I thought I had it sorted, but apparently I ride heavily, consequently I ended up on my butt more than going down the slopes.


Jeff and his family in Japan.

11.     What do you nerd out over?

I nerd out over large and complicated data sets. I love having that clean data set with no mistakes, that I can take to analyse and work out what's going on. For example, I'm currently working on a large project in Kemerton Industrial Area. It’s a multi-year/multi-season survey with a multi-variation analysis of threatened ecological communities and where the threatened species occur. I love tying it all together for a strategic plan and positive outcome. It’s an all-office assessment, including hydrology, geology, ecology, climate work and projections.



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