A day in the life of ... Ricky Spencer

Ricky Spencer

Ricky Spencer is an Associate Professor of Ecology in the School of Science and Health and is a School-based member of Hawkesbury Institute of the Environment.

Ricky has been working at the University since 2008. He was initially employed as a lecturer of biology and coordinated first year Biology units until 2012.

"In 2011, I proposed the Bachelor of Science (Zoology) degree to complement the highly successful Animal Science degree and was the Academic Course Advisor for Zoology, Biology and Environmental Science up until 2014," he says. "I have continued my interest in course design and curriculum development and in 2016, the four-year Animal Science/Zoology double degree had its first intake. The beauty of this degree is that we have created a pathway to TAFE in the fourth year so students can complete vocational certificates. This is the most comprehensive undergraduate degree relating to animal studies in Australia and will put our graduates at a distinct advantage in terms of employability. Numbers in animal-related degrees have nearly doubled since 2011, which is exciting yet challenging at the same time."

Ricky's research revolves around pest animal ecology and management and native animal conservation. You may have seen Ricky at talks or post to Yammer about the endangered Bellinger River turtles. "We also have a large ARC Linkage project on Murray River management, which has nine partners from all levels of government, a host of NGOs and community groups," he says.

Before Work

What do you have for breakfast?

Coffee is compulsory, but with new chickens at home, eggs are getting a serious run at the moment.

What do you do usually do when you first arrive at the University?

Feed my fish while the computer is firing up.

At Work

What classes do you teach?

I teach Animal Behaviour and Field Project students. I have nine post-doctorate/PhD/Masters students, too.

What are the two or three most important things you are currently working on?

  1. ARC Linkage Project on the Murray River. This is a very large project that is multi-pronged. It encompasses the whole Murray River with many stakeholders.
  2. Bellinger River Turtle Project. This turtle was driven to the edge of extinction over a three-week period in 2015. A mystery disease killed most of the population. This project is attempting to understand how a disease could do this while trying to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.
  3. Citizen Science projects. We have established Survey and Analysis Tools (SAT) for monitoring and managing biodiversity and currently turtles (TurtleSAT), wombats (WomSAT) and cats (CatSAT) are subject to separate Citizen Science programs. It is a big job.

What regular meetings do you attend, who are they with and what are they about?

  • I am a board member of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW, which meets at Taronga Zoo monthly. The society produces a journal, Australian Zoologist, and has regular forums. This year's forum at the Australian Museum is open to all to attend.
  • Western Sydney University's Animal Care and Ethics Committee. I have been a member of this committee since 2009. This University governance committee is mandated to assess and review all research and teaching projects conducted at the University.

What is something that can make a positive difference to your day?

  • A manuscript acceptance from an international journal overnight.
  • The corellas coming home to roost at night on the Hawkesbury campus.
  • Lab meetings with my postgraduate students.

After Work

What might we find you doing outside of work?

  • Coaching my son's AFL and soccer teams.
  • Teppanyaki with the family – great fun.
  • Night walks to see glow worms around creeks where we live in the mountains.
  • Going to and watching AFL games.