Considered the heart and soul of this whole program, Veronica Groat has a great passion for the natural environment which she shares with her husband John. After working as an editor for several newspapers in the Yarra Valley, Veronica with her husband John packed up and after a trip around Australia began a new chapter of their life on a small farming property in Strathallan between Rochester and Echuca in northern Victoria. Becoming more involved with their new community John and Veronica founded Strathallan Family Landcare, assisting in community events and receiving wide recognition with their work with Squirrel Gliders. In addition to running the ‘Gliders along the Campaspe’ project, Veronica and John started up a now major part of this initiative the Strathallan Glider Sanctuary. In 2015 the captive breeding program began with a population of two Squirrel Gliders.
A Sergeant who worked on the F111 in the RAAF for over 20 years, John Groat has proven to be quite the handy man. He is no stranger to the idea of conservation work, it seems it’s in the blood as his daughter Jean Thomas, who worked at Healesville Sanctuary and at Melbourne Zoos is now Chief Operating Officer for the highly successful Tenkile Conservation Alliance in remote Papua New Guinea working to protect the endangered tree-kangaroo. Using his diverse range of skills John has put together and installed close to 300 nest boxes and has welded together eight enclosures for the Strathallan Glider Sanctuary and is currently building a flight cage, a vol-planing (gliding) facility for gliders as they prepare for translocation back to the wild. He has been vital to the project, without John the program, much like the materials he's used to build, would be in pieces.
As a member of the Shepparton-Mooroopna Urban Landcare group Wendy D’Amore has many volunteer hours under her belt and a wealth of animal knowledge. For some years she worked at Phillip Island with the penguin program and currently she is a project coordinator supported by Goulburn Murray Landcare for a nest box monitoring program at the Australian Botanic gardens in Shepparton. Wendy leads regular spotlight groups around the lake at Shepparton where it is not uncommon to find a tawny frogmouth, a Brushtail possum, sugar glider and squirrel glider. Wendy has been an important part of the survey team working with John Groat recording nest box contents. All records have been transferred to a spreadsheet with plans to eventually transfer the complete information to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas in Melbourne.
A new team member joining in 2018 Tom, has in a short time proven to be invaluable. He is a reliable, passionate young man eager to help in a myriad of ways for the benefit of our conservation project. Inspired by his aunt and uncle; Jim and Jean Thomas and their work with endangered species in PNG Tom is striving to become a zoologist at Monash University. Since joining the program Tom has conducted research, recorded surveys, assisted in the captive breeding management and offered general tech-support. Tom has demonstrated great skills that have and will be very helpful to the ‘Gliders along the Campaspe’ scheme. In late 2018 Tom received a breeding pair of Squirrel Gliders and, with permission from the state government and required licences, has established his own private captive breeding of Squirrel Gliders, the Montrose Glider Breeding Project.
Bec is the newest member to join the conservation efforts to monitor the squirrel glider along the Campaspe. She has always had a passion for the environment and preventing further damage to Australia’s unique biodiversity. Following these passions led her to complete a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Wildlife Conservation Biology) at Deakin University. She heard about the Gliders along the Campaspe while visiting family in the school break. She was told about the town installing nest boxes along the Campaspe for squirrel gliders. Having lived in Rochester for most of her life she was astounded to hear we had squirrel gliders in this area. She immediately contacted Thomas and Veronica to find out more and see how she could get involved. Bec is a now volunteering as a surveyor, who goes into the field to determine areas that are suitable habitats for translocation.