What employment sector do you work in?
How long have you had a green job for nature?
£30,000 – £40,000
Please describe the work that you do.
I work in NatureScot, the Scottish Government’s nature conservation agency. My role helps Scotland to implement 30×30, which is a commitment to conserve 30% of our land and sea by 2030. I use data on habitats and species to answer questions about which areas of land we should conserve, how healthy different areas in Scotland are, and what might threaten them, including climate change. Through mapping and analysis, my work will contribute directly to conserving new areas of Scotland.
What do you most like about your job? Any dislikes?
I enjoy combining data, mapping, and ecological knowledge to answer complex and interesting questions that help us understand the state of nature in Scotland. The questions are challenging, but I get to experiment with different approaches to find the best answer.
I also enjoy working within a team who are all contributing their expertise towards the same goal, and the fact that our work will contribute directly towards improving conserving biodiversity in Scotland.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to work outside very often, but we do occasionally go on site visits to put our desk-based work into context, which can be helpful.
What inspired you into this career?
Ever since learning about climate change and biodiversity loss at school, I’ve been passionate about working to prevent it.
I originally thought about working in policy, but after learning more about scientific research and discovering that data and statistics aren’t as scary as they seem, I got a graduate placement modelling climate-driven drought risk. Through this, I became interested in using mapping tools to help us both understand the current status of nature and find ways of predicting how to improve it. This job lets me combine an interest in research with an interest in ecology and a desire to contribute to applied, on-the-ground conservation that will make a real difference.
Have you faced any challenges in progressing your career so far?
My first degree was in History, so moving into science and analysis was quite a change.
My lack of a Biology or Ecology background meant that, especially at first, I often lacked basic information about the ways habitats and species work, or didn’t understand common terms. However, this also meant I came at questions from a different perspective and often tended to ask ‘basic’ but vital questions that can sometimes get overlooked in research.
I also spent a lot of time volunteering before I got a paid position in this field, which isn’t available to everyone.
What education/training did you have?
My undergraduate was in History, which is not directly relevant but helped me build skills in writing, communication, analysing ideas and working with large volumes of information.
I then spent seven months volunteering with the RSPB, learning conservation skills including species and habitat surveys, practical habitat management, visitor engagement, and scientific research. This prepared me for a Masters in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, which gave me a more thorough foundation in ecological and conservation theory.
What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession?
Changes in direction and career are more common than you might think, and many people didn’t start with environmental degrees but are nevertheless able to move into the field.
Also, learning from people with more experience in the profession is really helpful, so taking advantage of any opportunities to go out in the field or shadow people – even informally, or in areas not totally within your area of focus – can make a big difference.
Tags: Scotland, ecology, data and mapping, research, non-cognate degree