Charlotte Kok, Avisure environmental scientist and team leader, is on the cusp of celebrating two years with the company. Malaysian-born to Chinese parents, she explains her real name is Xiang Ning Kok, her first name being pronounced ‘Sheeyang’. ‘It doesn’t really have a meaning, my parents just thought it had a nice sound.’
After finishing high school, in 2017 Charlotte/Xiang left her home and parents in the Malaysian territory of northern Borneo to begin tertiary study in Adelaide, South Australia, and completed her honours degree there in 2021.
She joined Avisure as a project support officer while still completing her honours degree in environmental science. ‘I have had some really diverse roles at Avisure,’ Charlotte says. ‘From my beginning as a project support officer, I moved into the role of graduate environmental scientist, to my current position as environmental scientist and team leader.’
‘It has been a steep learning curve. I enjoy working with birds and have learned lots about (Australian) bird ecology, bird behaviour and bird ID. My favourite bird in Borneo was the Rhinoceros Hornbill, but here it’s the red-rumped parrot (or grass parrot).’
She says her South Australian role is a mix: mostly office-based with some field work. ‘I help a lot with report writing – that’s a fundamental and important part of what we do – but I also like the opportunity to get out in the field, doing surveys and bird dispersal, for example.’
Her passion lies in bringing a more holistic ecological understanding to her wildlife hazard management work, considering the complex co-dependencies, how a range of factors are linked. ‘Climate change, and its associated weather patterns, is a huge driver,’ she says. ‘That flows into food and resources, but there are also human-induced factors, such as land clearing, land degradation, new housing developments, as well as inter-species behaviour and niche partitioning (where species in the same environment coexist by using resources differently thus avoiding competition) to be considered’.
As in many parts of the continent, South Australia has experienced a La Niña weather pattern for the last three years. Consecutive years of higher-than-average rainfall has meant greater vegetation and weed growth, attracting animals and birds to forage. Pelicans, for example have had a particularly good breeding season along the Murray River, and have dispersed south throughout the state, including in and around Adelaide. ‘Huge birds like pelicans are a significant risk to aircraft,’ she says.
When she is not working, Charlotte is a keen bushwalker. She is also a ‘huge dog person,’ but sadly, her six dogs (a pit bull/bull mastiff cross, dachshund, bichon frise, Maltese/shih tzu cross and toy poodle) are not with her in Australia; they had to stay in Borneo with her parents.