Paliame Palisah surveys ecological sites with leading global firm

Tuesday, September 13, 2022
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Papua New Guinean (PNG) Master of Conservation Biology graduate from Macquarie University Paliame Palisah says working with a leading global professional services firm boosted her confidence and gave her “perspective on what to pursue as a career”.  

Over a 10-week period, the Women Leading and Influencing (WLI) participant worked as a seasonal field ecologist with the RPS Office in Newcastle, New South Wales.  

Paliame believes the exposure and transferable skills gained through her placement can be used to improve PNG’s environmental services and biodiversity conservation through the development of the ornamental horticulture industry.  

According to Paliame, this would contribute to promoting PNG’s native flora species, improving livelihoods, and mitigating the effects of climate change; which remains one of her long-term career and development goals for the region.  

About the 10-week Field Ecologist Role  

RPS is a global professional services firm that defines, designs and manages projects across six sectors: property, energy, water, transport, defence, and governance services and resources. The firm prides itself on solving complex problems across these sectors globally.

Working within the Environment division of one of the firm’s Newcastle offices, Paliame worked as a field ecologist. In this capacity, she travelled to remote project sites around the region to conduct biodiversity surveys and seasonal monitoring of flora and fauna species.

She also compiled and analysed data for reporting at the firm’s office and engaged with experts across different sectors.

“One lesson I would take from this experience is to appreciate the significant role field ecologists play in protecting the environment and conserving biodiversity,” says Paliame, “The field work was adventurous and challenging.”

Focused on identifying the operational processes, field protocols, and technical skills needed to create strong client-consultant relationships and conduct effective environmental management and biodiversity reporting, Paliame now feels ready to take on equivalent roles in PNG.  

“The role has given me perspective on what to pursue as a career and prepared me for the real world when I return home to PNG,” says Paliame, “I feel more confident and prepared to take on a role equivalent to or higher than a field ecologist.”

[Paliame (right) conducting a field trip with a colleague as part of the work placement]

Developing PNG’s ornamental horticulture industry

Paliame believes that her newfound networks and operational and technical knowledge and experience can support the development of PNG’s emerging ornamental horticulture industry; which Paliame aims to contribute to in the long term.  

“Horticulture, especially ornamental horticulture, is a new sector,” explains Paliame, “I am hoping to contribute to its growth by representing the marginalised communities who depend on this industry for their livelihood and voice their concerns by engaging in conversations with responsible stakeholders.”

According to Paliame, conducting research on the market potential of the ornamental industry domestically and internationally would be a step forward in establishing an independent peak body to regulate, manage and develop the industry.  

Looking at PNG’s biosecurity protocols, exploring the establishment of an ecological consultancy, and introducing and trialling horticulture courses in PNG universities or technical colleges, are also avenues Paliame would like to explore for the industry’s growth.

Paliame believes that due to the versatile nature and practices of horticulture, the industry can support sustainable developmental goals of the United Nations and PNG nationally.  

In the future, this may include a venture into urban horticulture, given the field’s capacity for climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies; such as green infrastructure and urban greening, water-sensitive design and sustainable waste disposal.

“This experience has empowered me as a woman leader and a conservation biologist to effectively implement my vision … and lead change in the horticulture industry, promote biodiversity conservation and environment protection, and advocate for climate action,” says Paliame.  


Women’s Developmental Leadership Program (formerly the WLI Leadership & Mentoring program) participants like Paliame have the opportunity to work within Australian or Pacific organisations through Australia Awards Women Leading and Influencing. Through tailored work placements, participants build leadership and professional skills and forge lasting partnerships and networks to support them into the future.

Find out more about WLI workplace internships.