A Focus On Nature

A Focus On Nature

We’re Recruiting!

We are currently recruiting for two A Focus On Nature committee roles – a Project Officer, and a Fundraising Officer and Treasurer. Read on for details! [Read More]

Now for Nature

The ‘V’ Word – why you shouldn’t turn your back on volunteering

Volunteering, a word that can strike dread in those looking to pursue careers in conservation, ‘’not another unpaid position, what are my parents going to think!?’’. This to some may be seen as an exploitation, however in a sector which is so competitive and where experience is so highly revered volunteering can be a fantastic opportunity.

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Books and Reviews

Book Review: Linescapes by Hugh Warwick

Hugh Warwick’s Linescapes is an uplifting and heartfelt review of our landscape here in Britain today. The result of 11,000 years in the making, we sit upon a fragmented patchwork of application – we have made this island our own. The people whose feet stomped the dusty path beneath mine have built a prosperous nation, a safe haven for humans but at an indifference to the ecological consequences of continued progress. [Read More]

A Focus On Nature

A Day in Burghead

The drive to Burghead was beautiful. This small seaside town is situated on the edge of a peninsula protruding into the Moray Firth, so it’s surrounded by open ocean on three sides. As we made our way up the high street it felt like we were at the edge of the world, and in a way we were. More of northern Scotland could just be seen in the distance, but the space between still seemed vast.

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Uncategorized

Richard Benwell – AFON Mentor, Environmental Policy

Introducing Richard Benwell, AFON Mentor and Parliamentary Programme Manager for the RSPB.

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?
The thrill of the law… the terms for a teacher… the hope in medicine… the gadgets in science… When you’re a young person choosing your path in life (or picking your way day by day), there are a thousand different options ahead. So many young people with green hearts and wildlife-filled lives end up settling for grey day jobs because of the perception that more traditional career paths are safer or more grown up. Certainly, it’s hard to get a foot on the nature jobs ladder. So, as a mentor, I hope to help one or two more young folk convert their conservation conviction into conservation career. The more people saving the world the merrier!

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

Not all conservation careers start with binoculars on a windy clifftop (sadly), or with a science degree. My route has been via academia, politics, policy and Parliament. It’s been fun and fascinating. I’d be glad to offer some guidance to anyone interested in environmental policy.

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

Remember what we’re fighting for and never let it become just a job! With every career, there will be some tasks you don’t take to and some days that are difficult, but remembering we’re part of a movement keeps every day feeling positive and worthwhile. As it happens, that’s good for your state of mind and as well as your career – we’re always on the lookout for folk with the drive to make a difference. Good luck and have fun!

Flick through our mentors and find out how to apply

Mentoring

Ceri Levy – AFON Mentor and Filmmaker, Writer & Producer

Read on to find out more about Ceri Levy, Gonzovationist.

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?cerilevy_web

I have often mentored people in the past and enjoy the teaching aspect as this always teaches me something new as well. There is nothing more satisfying than helping younger people to articulate their skills and thoughts through the medium of film. Learning the art of storytelling with visuals is an important part of film making and one that is imperative in this day and age when everyone has the capability to capture an event, thought or action on film. Expressing this in a cohesive way is vital to stand out amongst the noise of the 21st century.

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

Again, I would suggest that having written several books and made an amount of films and videos I am in a position to understand what makes a decent vehicle for a message to be related to an audience. Creativity is about bouncing ideas around to find the perfect way to tell a story. Sometimes the simplest thing can be missed when working solo. Teamwork is an essential part of creating film. Writing less so, but I have always relied on my editor to help me on the final ascent to completion of a book.

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

Try things. It is important to experiment. There is no such thing as a mistake. As my partner-in-chief on our Gonzovation Trilogy of books, Ralph Steadman says, “ A mistake is an opportunity to do something else!” Always allow a breath before ignoring something before you.

See the whole list of mentors and find out how to apply

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]