Violinist now more in tune with wombats, swaps music for mammals
Published on 06 September, 2011
If you take Yvette Fenning's experience on board, the best way to become a womat researcher might be to enrol in a university music degree. But Yvette has not conformed to the 'classic' career path.
After studying violin in Brisbane, she graduated as a music therapist and spent four years helping patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke or dementia.
Yvette's husband Andrew gained a position as a medical sciences researcher and lecturer at CQUniversity in Rockhampton, so she became a violin teacher.
"Music has become a hobby while animals have always been my passion, so I started volunteering at Rockhampton Zoo," she said.
"This volunteer role led to work as a zookeeper in charge of native mammals, and I've been most interested in nutrition, diet and behaviour of the wombats, dingos, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies.
"Since I ride horses in my spare time and horses have similar digestive systems to wombats, I've been able to use my personal reading and study of horses to help with the wombats."
Yvette has now taken her role at the zoo a step further by launching a Masters research project based on the captive wombat husbandry program.
She hopes to unlock some of the pathways towards enhanced breeding success, under the supervision of Dr Dave Swain and Bret Heath from CQUniversity.
This research aims to explore optimum management techniques to be drawn on when wombat breeding becomes commonplace in captivity.
Rockhampton Zoo has the largest captive group of southern hairy nosed wombats in the world, with 13 individuals, and the Masters study will analyse husbandry factors such as diet, enclosure design, enrichment and group composition.
This research is not only expected to provide benefits for the southern hairy nosed wombat breeding program and the welfare of this species, but could also be used to assist Kiwi's critically-endangered cousins, the northern hairy nosed wombats.
Yvette is working full-time at the zoo but manages to arrange herself a day off for the research study each week, as she's also in charge of rosters.
The little spare time she has is spent riding horses and playing violin with local music groups, most recently CQ Strings and the theatre pit orchestra for Guys and Dolls.