Fledging the nest: an early career event for the next generation of Conservation Ecologists

A month ago, on Friday 4th March, I was involved in a workshop for young (as in PhD and postdoc ‘young’) ecologists that aimed to give them the tools they need to nail a career in Conservation Ecology.  With limited funds in conservation (which by no means reflects the funds required by the crisis discipline, as Waldron and his buddies write about here), but an urgent need to get bright, enthusiastic young things to take the reigns, we thought this was an apt event with which to kick-start the revived British Ecology Society Conservation Ecology Special Interest Group (BES ConEco SIG – not much more digestible as an acronym!).  The SIG’s revival is thanks to the hard work, enthusiasm and novel ideas of the unstoppable Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, based at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).  It’s quite an honour to be part of the Committee, and I’m excited by what the future holds for the group and its jolly followers.

My main role during last month’s event was to gather material for some blog posts, to provide post-event information for those that couldn’t attend (it was a sell out!).  Pasted below is the first post I wrote: Blog 1 of a six part series.  I also wrote Blog 4.  The others were written by Claudia, Heather and Kath, and posted on the ZSL Wild Science blog, BES blog and Journal of Applied Ecology’s The Applied Ecologist’s Blog.  Hopefully there are a few bits and bobs of advice that might be useful within.

 

Fledging the nest: an early career event for the next generation of Conservation Ecologists

This piece is written by Lydia Cole, Rezatec, BES Conservation Ecology SIG Liaison Officer@lydcole, Katherine Baldock, University of Bristol, BES Conservation Ecology SIG Early Career Rep @Kath_Baldock, Claudia Gray, Zoological Society of London, BES Conservation Ecology SIG Communications Officer @ClaudiaLGray, Heather Crump, Aberystwyth University, BES Conservation Ecology SIG Early Career Rep @hec72012

This blog has also been posted on the BES and ZSL Wild Science blogs.

event 1

Last Friday heralded the first training event of the revived BES Conservation Ecology Special Interest Group: an interactive workshop for Early Career Conservation Ecologists. Jointly hosted by the Zoological Society of London and the British Ecological Society, the event brought together a herd of experts, working in fields ranging from journal editing, to university lecturing and policy, to guide early career attendees through five interactive sessions.

The philosophy behind the day was to provide an active learning opportunity where the bright, enthusiastic cohort of PhDs and postdocs currently trying to enter the world of conservation could learn a range of skills that would better equip them for this challenge. And they flocked in their numbers, with over 65 gathering at the London Zoo, in view of the kangaroos, having travelled from as far afield as Falmouth to the south and Durham to the north.

Universities are busy places, full of busy supervisors, who do not always have the time to impart knowledge on how the world (of conservation) works and how best to get into it; this workshop attempted to bring that knowledge into one room and encourage the early career enthusiasts to tap into it.

The day was divided into five sessions, each an hour long, where participants spread themselves across five thematic groups:

  1. Funding
  2. Press and online media profile building
  3. Networking and CV development for non-academic careers
  4. Interview skills for academic careers
  5. Publishing

event 2

At each ‘station’ ( = a round table + experts x 2 + useful materials + Post-its (of course!)), attendees were asked to perform a series of tasks to engage them with the theme, ranging from seeing how many “useful” new contacts they could make in a quick-fire networking break-out, to matching abstracts to journals, drafting a BES small grant application and put together a communication strategy for a paper about to be published. In between tasks, there was plenty of time to mine the knowledge of the experts, who must have answered several thousand questions over the course of the day (thank you, experts!). And throughout, there was not a lecture in sight!

Informal feedback tells us it was a day well received:

To mark the event and share the knowledge gained from it, we will be running a series of blogs over the coming fortnight, with each post focusing one of the five workshop themes. So if you missed the event, check out the blogs….and watch out for the invitation to #conscareers17!

And remember: you can easily keep up-to-date with the Conservation Ecology SIG news by following us on Twitter @BESConservation and Facebook through the BES Conservation Ecology group page. Alternatively, you can join our mailing list by dropping an email toNathalie.Pettorelli@ioz.ac.uk

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NHS for Soils needed!

Every month, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology releases several publications, known as POSTnotes, that aim to provide an easily digestible overview of research in different areas of science and technology, as a tool for policy makers.  One released this month is all about securing UK soil health, in additional to the principally-important parts about peat.  I’d definitely recommend reading it if you’re interested in learning of the current status and threats to this ‘renewable resource’.

Renewable is a slightly misleading word.  Peat is a renewable resource if we wait about 3,000 years between harvests.  Fossil fuels could also be renewable if we could hold off popping the kettle on again for another 300 million years or so.  There should probably be a time frame attached to each use of renewable, and a conservative one at that, based on the Precautionary Principle.

A maturing sugarbeet field in East Anglia.

A maturing sugar beet field in East Anglia.

We basically need some, or even one coherent and policeable policy that governs sustainable soil management in the UK (and Europe), so that we can adhere to the Government’s plan to “grow more, buy more and sell more British food” over the next 25 years.  The world needs our sugar beet and broad beans.  And we all so desperately need our soils.

Caged.

Every so often, the legend that is Corey Bradshaw publishes a Cartoon guide to biodiversity loss.  This one made me especially sad.  Perhaps because I saw several great people of the trees, stretching between bars in 4x4m round cages that they had been in for 20+ years, almost non-stop, in an orangutan care centre in Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan, last year.  They didn’t have a home to go back to, and couldn’t be let out into the small patch of enclosed forest that the smaller orangs could hang around in during set ‘play’ times, in case they caused a problem.  Did we not cause their problem?