Nicole Kowalczyk

Nicole Kowalczyk

Maribyrnong Officer

AKA: Nikki

Likes: Walking, preferably surrounded by greenery, nature play with my children, dancing, baking, roasted cauliflower and sweet potato

Dislikes: Long queues at the supermarket (or anywhere for that matter), loud motorbikes, dealing with very hungry children, overripe avocados, the feeling ‘there is never enough time’ and environmental degradation.

Favourite Animal in the Yarra Catchment: The Australian wood duck


Nicole is helping Yarra Riverkeeper’s extend their impact to one of the Yarra’s (Birrarung) biggest tributaries, and an iconic river in itself, the Maribyrnong (Mirrangbamurn).


Environmental education and management have been of interest to Nicole since she can remember. Her childhood was spent in South Africa where she made frequent visits to national parks, enjoying many close encounters with African wildlife. Nicole moved to Australia in 2003 and was fascinated by the native wildlife, particularly the diverse, colourful and loud birds she frequently encountered. Her outdoor adventures shaped her values and naturally led to studies of environmental science and education. Nicole is a qualified primary school teacher and ecologist. Her honours year was spent in Costa Rica where she studied the nesting behaviour of the leatherback turtle. During her PhD she focused on the foraging and reproductive ecology of the St Kilda little penguin colony. Her research highlighted the importance of the Yarra River in structuring predator prey dynamics in Port Phillip Bay. By attaching GPS logger to little penguins Nicole found penguins frequently foraged in the freshwater plume due to the high nutrient content and biodiversity in this region. 


Over the years, Nicole has merged her passions for the environment and education by designing and delivering unique educational experiences focused on wildlife, ecosystems and conservation to students from kindergarten to tertiary levels. Nicole has extensive community activation and conservation project management experience. Her recent work in the litter space while at the Yarra Riverkeeper Association was awarded the Premier’s Sustainability Award (2020) for ‘Environmental Protection’ as well as the Premier’s Recognition Award.


When not advocating for the Maribyrnong River, Nicole works as an Education Officer with Zoos Victoria always enjoying the drive to Healesville where she can appreciate the upper Yarra catchment’s rolling hills and misty mornings.


“I love Mt Donna Buang in the upper Yarra catchment in winter, particularly when it snows.  Bushwalking or cross country skiing you can hear streams making their way down the mountain that will eventually join the Yarra