A Focus On Nature

The Youth Nature Network

Join the youth conservation movement in Britain: get in contact today.

Mentoring, Uncategorized

Stephen Moss – AFON Mentor & Writer, Broadcaster and TV Producer

Here we have a quick chat with Stephen Moss, who’s newest book Wild Kingdom: Bringing Back Britain’s Wildlife was published last year. Stephen co-founded AFON along with Lucy McRobert and Rob Lambert in 2011-12.

You can also read about mentees’ experiences of having Stephen as a mentor from Ally and Ben.

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?

When we set AFoN up Lucy had the bright idea of asking people like me to become mentors.

MossyyyHow have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

We soon found that we learned almost as much from our mentees as they did from us – it has certainly been a really satisfying and enriching experience! I think I have also been able to point them in the right direction and give them some shortcuts and the benefits of my own experience.

What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?

Find someone between one and five years ahead of you in your chosen field, and ask their advice on what to do next so that you can get ahead!

Books and Reviews

Book Review: ReWild by Nick Baker

In the past few years, Rewilding has become a hot topic for those directly involved and interested in conservation, and the general public, thanks to press and politicians sharing their opinions. I was excited to read about Nick Baker’s thoughts on this widely discussed topic, but after just a couple of pages, I realised that the book was not about rewilding places and entirely about rewilding us.

[Read More]

Mentoring

Dr Rob Lambert – AFON Co-founder and Mentor

Our mentoring interview this week is with Dr Rob Lambert…

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?

I suppose I should declare that over 2011-2012, Lucy McRobert, myself and Stephen Moss (with the founding support of Opticron, and later other corporates) created the whole idea of AFON as a way to professionally network and help young people into fulfilling conservation careers. From the outset, inter-generational mentoring was at the heart of our vision for AFON. We recognised that many established well-known wildlife and conservation figures (let’s say, loosely over 30 years old) had an enormous repository of insights and experiences that they could share with younger people setting out on career journeys. Stephen Moss and I knew many of them as friends, so as well as signing up ourselves as the first AFON mentors, we cajoled and urged our network of pals to recognise how valuable (and life-changing) their involvement could be. It was, to be honest, an easy sell. The AFON Mentors list grew and grew, as did the wider organisation under Lucy’s leadership. We three remain hugely proud of what AFON has become, with the mentoring scheme very much at the heart of that success. It has been exhilarating to sit back and watch mentoring relationships flourish over time, and AFON mentees find employment in the conservation world. It has also been heart-warming to see how the established eNGOS have come to recognise the value of AFON as an organisation, and the relevance within of the mentoring scheme to their eternal search for future employees. I have always felt that having AFON on your CV does open doors.

Learn more about Dr Rob Lambert

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

I have a diverse range of job roles: academic, broadcaster, expedition ship lecturer, writer etc. In that sense I reflect diversity and how I have sought to defy compartmentalisation for much of my career. I would hope to be able to offer keen insights to those AFON members wanting to pursue traditional academic careers (environmental research & teaching) within the university sector; plus those who want that as just a part of their portfolio, and want to also engage in outreach and impact work beyond academia in places like media, policy making, expedition cruising, publications, journalism etc. I have edited the international academic journal Environment and History for 17 years (gulp!) and so can certainly offer tips on writing and publication and the misery of having your work edited externally. I supervise around 12 Environment Dissertations a year at the University of Nottingham, so can happily help with titles, project areas, networks, editing etc. Best of all, I think I am very well networked and connected into this wonderful British wildlife constituency that we all cherish, so I can usually facilitate introductions and set AFON members off on their journeys of discovery.

What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?

Be open-minded, creative, able to seize all opportunities. Be prepared to diversify. Recognise that you will be starting at the bottom, so prove yourself invaluable and hard-working and insightful as a team player in an organisation. Then you can create opportunities for yourself within the system. You may well have to do two or three short-term contracts before a full-time contract is handed to you. That is fine. Take as much experience and training as you can from those short-terms, to then apply to your first permanent position. Most of all, don’t be arrogant. You will have 40 years of working ahead of you. Don’t try and run before you can walk properly.

Be aware of your social media profiles. A number of AFON folk have recently been challenged at interview about their social media outreach and how it reflects on them as a person, future employee etc. NGO staff will follow you on social media, so behave responsibly and with wisdom and balance. Don’t rant. Be prepared to defend your stances. Also, be prepared to change your stances to some degree (via flexibility) if you are employed and your conservation employer has a defined viewpoint. Being in a job, with income, responsibility and the chance to shape future conservation policymaking is far better than being unemployed on the sidelines. You will, as you rise up an organisation, gain more and more freedoms to input your own ideas, so bide your time carefully.

If you are a scientist/ecologist/biologist recognise that the conservation sector is a broad church and that there will be people from the Arts & Humanities (environmental historians, for example) and the Social Sciences who will have just as much gravitas as you in talking about and engaging with nature as a career option. Remember, eNGOs now are hugely diverse organisations with much investment taking place in areas like Communications, Marketing, Media, HR, Economics, Public Affairs, etc. There will be people competing against you who will have degrees and keen insights from diverse academic backgrounds. Nature conservation is no longer just about science, it is now about culture.

Learn more about the AFON mentoring scheme and how to apply here

Books and Reviews

Book Review: Dead Zone by Philip Lymbery

Dead Zone is nothing less than an eyeopener. If you care about the planet and how the food we produce and eat is affecting it, you must read this book. Dead Zone sheds light on the myth that to provide for the world’s ever-increasing population livestock needs to be crammed into sheds, and fields and prairies around the globe drowned in pesticides and fertilisers, when in fact the opposite is true.

[Read More]

Mentoring

Introducing Becky O’Melia – Education & Engagement Mentor

Welcome to one of our “newest” mentors at A Focus on Nature (AFON), Becky O’Melia. Becky is passionate about nature therapy and the importance of spending time outdoors, connecting with the natural world. We asked her a few questions about mentoring…

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?
When I first came out of university I started as a volunteer trainee with Groundwork, and I had a mentor there that was absolutely amazing. His guidance helped me direct my career path and gain the skills and confidence I needed to get my first paid job in conservation. In my current role as Community Wildlife Officer at the Nature Discovery Centre for Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, I mentor a trainee every 6 months. The aim is to give them the skills to work in community engagement and enable them to go away with everything they need to get a paid job. It’s incredibly rewarding seeing people grow and I’d like more opportunity to do this.

Learn more about Becky

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?
I have over 7 years experience working in the community engagement side of nature conservation. Over the years I’ve been involved in a number of public engagement projects including wildlife clubs for children, a nature therapy group for adults with mental health issues and a nature café for people living with dementia and their loved ones, as well as numerous hands on wildlife events and activities. I think I can bring all of skills learnt during this time together and pass them on to potential mentees. I hope too that I’d be able to give potential mentees the opportunity to see that there are ways to engage with people from all walks of life, and that simple activities, showing people nature on their doorstep, work best. Previously trainees that I’ve worked with have gone on to paid roles, or in to further education to gain more qualifications in nature conservation.

What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?
Try out everything. When I went to university I thought I wanted to work in the middle of India somewhere, conserving tigers. Whilst there’s a little bit of me that would still love to do that it was actually while I was doing my degree that I got a chance to have a go at community engagement and education and I realised that was my passion. You never know what you’ll do that might spark something!

Learn more about the AFON Mentoring Scheme and how to apply

A Focus On Nature

AFON at Birdfair 2017

It’s just over a week since Birdfair finished and I’m finally recovered from the Birdfair Blues. They seemed to hit particularly hard this year but I’m taking this as a sign of a great Birdfair. I think I’m even brave enough to say it was the best Birdfair yet; particularly for AFON as a group.

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Mentoring

My Mentor: David Tipling

It was 2013 when I first met David Tipling. I remember looking through his website for quite a while before actually going to meet him, being stunned by the quality of his photography. When you go to meet one of the world’s best wildlife photographers, you expect to feel intimidated. And yet David is one of the most down-to-earth people I know.

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Mentoring

My Mentors: Patrick Barkham and Stephen Moss

Writing, of any genre, is one of the most competitive career paths out there. Add the word ‘nature’, ‘environment’ or ‘conservation’ and it becomes even more so. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, and with some hard work, determination and good advice one can forge a path into the world of the written word. For me, the AFON mentoring scheme has propelled my chances of success and boosted my confidence and I want to thank everyone involved in the scheme, especially my mentors, Stephen and Patrick, for everything that you have offered me so far.

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Mentoring

My Mentors: Carl Chapman and David Tipling

I’m Catherine Bullen, I work during the day as a food and product photographer but enjoy heading to the outdoors and photographing wildlife and nature when I clock off. Last year I discovered AFON and the variety of things they do. I saw the mentor scheme advertised on their website, and thought it would be a great opportunity to meet and learn from professional wildlife photographers.  I wasn’t sure what my chances would be of getting a place on the scheme, I thought something which sounds that good must be pretty competitive, but I figured if I didn’t apply then my chances of getting selected would be zero. At least if I applied I stood a chance!

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Mentoring

My Mentor: Stephen Moss

“Hi, my name’s Ally and I’ve just finished reading your book Wild Hares and Hummingbirds – I really enjoyed it”. At A Focus on Nature’s 2014 A Vision for Nature Conference, I knew I’d be really mad at myself if I didn’t say hello to Stephen Moss. Like many, I had his books on my shelves, and had re-watched his wildlife programmes many a time. I had come to the conference to meet people so I had to say hi! After a couple of chats throughout the weekend covering topics from conservation to AFON and how I hoped one day to be a nature writer, Stephen offered to be my AFON mentor – needless to say I didn’t hesitate!

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