What employment sector do you work in?
How long have you had a green job for nature?
£40,001 – £50,000
Please describe the work that you do.
I give advice to the government on wildlife. Most of my time is spent finding ways to avoid or resolve conflicts between protected species and people.
What do you most like about your job? Any dislikes?
I like solving problems. People want a better quality of life, which puts huge pressures of the natural world – but they also want to see abundant and diverse wildlife. Achieving both is a massive challenge, especially living as we do on a small island nation. For me, finding new ways to help people to live alongside wildlife is very rewarding. However, I do have to be prepared to give advice that sometimes results in wildlife being killed. This isn’t something I enjoy but growing up on a farm taught me that you can’t be too sentimental. Nature isn’t either!
And, every now and again, I get to see something magic. Last year I saw a pack of wolves on a trip to Germany to find out how people their live with returning species like wolves and beavers, and a few weeks ago I watched some of our first wild living beavers on a river in Devon. Movements like that make all the time I spend sat in front of a computer worthwhile!
What inspired you into this career?
I grew up on a dairy farm and never saw myself doing anything except working outdoors with animals. What inspired me to study wildlife, however, were the TV programmes made by the famous French marine explorer, Jacques Cousteau. Originally, I planned to be a marine biologist but I made the wrong subject choices at school (make sure you get good advice when making choices!) so had to take a different path.
My early ambition was to be a researcher. Doing research took me to the wilds of Scotland and then to the even wilder forests of Borneo. That was a fantastic experience. I lived and worked with ‘raw’ nature and still have a few scars to prove it. Later, I transitioned from research to an advisory role in a government agency because I wanted to use what I had learned to make a difference (and because it provided greater job stability – which was important when we had a young family).
Have you faced any challenges in progressing your career so far?
Careers in nature conservation are popular and it can be tough to get started. I did voluntary work and short-term contracts to build experience in the early years and I had to move around quite a bit. At one point I lived for 6 months in a caravan which had no electricity or running water while doing surveying. It was very basic, but the work was interesting and I was young enough to (quite) enjoy roughing it!
I’m dyslexic. What’s surprised me is just how many people working in nature conservation consider themselves to be ‘neurodiverse’. This, I believe, means the profession tends to be pretty good at accepting and accommodating such diversity, and that’s certainly been my experience.
What education/training did you have?
After finishing a zoology degree, I spent a year doing voluntary and paid work on nature reserves to get practical experience, as a research assistant and working on a deer farm (to learn about handling deer) before securing a place to do a PhD studying deer. Later, when I moved to work as a government advisor, I needed to do a lot of training on environmental law. There is always something new to learn – it’s what makes this an interesting career choice. I recently took a course on managing problems caused by beavers. It’s brilliant to think that in a few years we’ll be living in a country where beavers are so common that they cause problems!
What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession?
Jobs with wildlife are popular so passion and persistence are important. What’s most exciting about a career in nature conservation is that the range of jobs available is changing. We increasingly rely on new technologies, like drones and other remote sensing devices, on environmental DNA and novel approaches to data gathering like citizen science. Saving nature is no longer a niche career choice, it needs to involve everyone, and this is creating far more diverse career paths with wider appeal.