What employment sector do you work in?
How long have you had a green job for nature?
Please describe the work that you do.
I lead SLR Consulting’s Ecology and Biodiversity Team. I first joined the team as a project ecologist nearly 20 years ago and now I manage over 80 staff in the UK and Republic of Ireland. My role is principally staff, project and business management and client liaison with probably 30% technical work. Most of my technical work revolves around protected species survey and mitigation, habitat survey, ecological assessment and BNG.
What do you most like about your job? Any dislikes?
I still enjoy the technical work the most – especially problem-solving difficult development vs. environment conflicts where I can see real benefits to the environment through my involvement. Unfortunately, examples of these situations are not as common as I would like and so compromising environmental matters because of inadequate regulation or policy support is probably the biggest dislike too.
What inspired you into this career?
I read Douglas Adams’ Last Chance to See as a teenager (I was a huge fan of Hitch-hikers Guide…) and this inspired me to think hard about the world I wanted to live in. I had always been interested and reasonably good at natural sciences, but it was only when I reached Sheffield University that I swapped from Geology to Ecology at the end of my 1st Year. There was a real optimism following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit which reinforced my views and when I landed a summer job working for a consultancy which became a year out from University, I was set.
Have you faced any challenges in progressing your career so far?
I have been incredibly lucky: I think I got my first ecological consultancy job because I had a car rather than any field skills to think of and I spent a good deal of time trying to quickly learn those I needed to progress. Colleagues at SLR have always supported me to build my career in the direction I wanted to go – supporting my involvement in EcIA Guidance and subsequently on CIEEM’s PSC Committee, through work on BNG and the development of UKHab. Probably the biggest challenge is juggling my time between the things I am passionate about, the things required of me and my family life.
What education/training did you have?
I only started studying biological sciences at university and even though I was pretty hopeless at molecular biology I graduated with a BSc in Ecology. I still draw upon the knowledge gained during my A-levels (Geology, Geography and Chemistry), but I think the most important skill I took formal education was being able to construct a decent argument and write a good essay. I have been lucky to work alongside some inspirational and talented individuals in our sector and I still think this is the best training there is. I try not to take anything for granted so continue to learn, from colleagues especially, and I attend training courses to keep field skills fresh.
What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession?
Find an employer that has a decent training programme and remember that training is a partnership. All the good ecologists I know see it as a vocation and ‘live it’: always exploring the natural world and being passionate about it. There are two critical skills I suggest early career consultants focus on: being able to write a logical, well-argued and evidenced report and understanding habitats and how human activity influences them.