What employment sector do you work in?
How long have you had a green job for nature?
Please describe the work that you do.
Infrastructure projects often need additional funding from lenders, such as World Bank. Each lender has their own standards. My job as an ecologist is to review existing documents, identify gaps relating to the lenders specific guidance, scope and enable additional survey work to be undertaken, then write a lender-compliant supplementary studies package. Other times, I work for the lender, undertake due diligence work and advise on information gaps and potential reputational risks.
What do you most like about your job? Any dislikes?
My job is never boring, and I am always learning. Before working in a new country I have to do a lot of background reading. In the country, I work with local teams for surveys, which is always interesting and sometimes challenging, both logistically and language-wise! My favourite aspect is the travel, meeting in-country biodiversity experts, and always learning. For this job though, you have to enjoy writing reports too.
Dislikes – only temporary things like 12-hour flights, outdoor toilets full of maggots, and the odd parasite you accidentally take home in you…
What inspired you into this career?
Both before and after university I did a lot of travel internationally. I worked as an ecologist in the UK for about six years and started to get a bit bored of the red tape and lack of international travel. I then decided there must be a way to make both work: travel and ecology. Through joining the International Association for Impact Assessment I was able to meet and network with people working in the international forum (social, environmental, and biodiversity). Soon after I started working with my company’s social and environmental team (SLR) based in France. Many years later I still love combining ecology and travel.
Have you faced any challenges in progressing your career so far?
Confidence! It is always a challenge to arrive in a country where the dominant work force is male, and all of the surveyors think you are there to criticise their previous work. Often you have to work hard to win respect, or at least develop a good working relationship with in-country biodiversity “experts”. But once done, so many doors open and you stand to learn so much and sometimes form life long friendships.
What education/training did you have?
BSc in Plant Biology, then a Masters in Environmental Consultancy. Plus various other bits, but I would say that the most valuable training for working overseas is a good grounding in UK ecology survey methods, Ecological Impact Assessment, and writing management plans. All the skills you need can be developed from that.
The other necessity is availability and the ability to travel. On occasion, trips can be organised last minute, and you find yourself landing at an airport at 2am, you then need to get to your hotel, and be ready for a 9am meeting in another part of town. Often we travel solo, organising our own logistics – though not always.
What advice would you give to someone coming into the profession?
Get a good grounding in UK ecology, legislation, survey methods, and reporting. Be prepared to be pragmatic, and take feedback, good and bad. All reports are generally published online (by lenders and the project), so anyone can comment on your work, especially project objectors.
If you have a second language then great, but if not, google translate can be very helpful!
Make sure you have done some international traveling too – e.g. a focussed gap year with biodiversity projects and travel.