Jasmine Maftei is a wildlife biologist and has been with Avisure for four years since graduating in 2018 with a BSc from the University of South Australia.
While she travels around SA and Australia for work, her chief focus over that time has been work as a wildlife management officer (WMO) at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh (EDN) in South Australia. Avisure is sub-contracted by Defence estate maintenance services contractor, Ventia Pty Ltd, to manage wildlife hazards and reduce the risk of wildlife strike at RAAF EDN.
Doing this successfully requires very active involvement on Jasmine’s part. She undertakes all the expected WMO tasks such as actively patrolling the base environs, monitoring aircraft movements, identifying wildlife risks and hazards, and using various dispersal methods to move wildlife away from the runway, aircraft approach and departure paths and other movement areas.
However, what is different at EDN is the invaluable working trust which has developed between Jasmine and air traffic control (ATC). She maintains a high level of situational awareness and safety while also dispersing birds away from the runway between aircraft movements. Not only that, but this trust, combined with her understanding of base operations and the wildlife environment, means Jasmine is able to offer real-time wildlife separation calls to ATC by reporting wildlife flyovers and hazards during aircraft movements so ATC can alert pilots. The pilots can then make informed decisions so that, where safe to do so, they can avoid the potential bird strike. They may choose to go around, delay their take off, or use the alternative runway direction for landing.
This has been especially useful in the past year. In 2021, La Niña weather conditions brought ideal breeding conditions for many waterbirds, including pelicans. Before this, it was rare to see pelicans soar over RAAF Edinburgh airfield but in 2022, they are being observed almost daily, with up to 50 individuals in the airspace at once. Aircraft movements have also increased at RAAF EDN and aircraft types have changed (the current Boeing P-8A Poseidon are more strike susceptible than their predecessors – the Lockheed P-3 Orion, due to their turbo-prop engine). More aircraft movements and more wildlife has resulted in more real-time wildlife separation calls, but despite this increased risk, there has not been an increase in wildlife strikes.
Jasmine admits it can be a challenging environment. ‘As a WMO I encounter many challenges – the main being the initial intensive training to become a WMO, and the dynamic nature of the environment, where weather, changes to operations and flight schedules and wildlife risk can change by the minute.’ However, she relishes such challenges, and looks forward to the greater use of technology to help overcome them. ‘I would also like to see greater use of radar and drones, for example, in wildlife hazard management programs, to be able to detect wildlife flyovers via radar. This would allow increased detection beyond line-of-sight and give pilots more time to make informed decisions. Increased flyover data would also allow modelling predicting wildlife flight paths based on time, weather and species.
She likes to be at the forefront, so has already gained her remote pilot licence (RePL) to operate drones, which she hopes to use for conducting wildlife surveys, dispersing wildlife, assessing bird nests and more.