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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
“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!
Book Review: The Way of the Hare by Marianne Taylor
Hares are not a creature I have seen an awful lot of throughout my life, but on the rare occasions I’ve spotted one, I have gazed eagerly into their wild eyes and greatly admired their speed as they sped off into the distance – it is always a delight and a real treat to see a hare. Having grown up in rural Cumbria I was surrounded by wild rabbits as a child, and I have never been one to dismiss hares as merely “big bunnies” and it has consistently frustrated me when other people have dismissed them as such.
I’m sure if you are reading this review then you’ll have already read the brilliant first instalment from M.G. Leonard, Beetle Boy. If not, what are you waiting for, grab a copy from your nearest bookshop and stop reading this to avoid any spoilers.
Associate Director, A Focus On Nature
Start Date: 01/09/2017
Since its formation in 2011, A Focus On Nature has sought to encourage and connect young people aged 16 to 30 who share a passion for the natural world. Through a combination of social media, events and mentorship, AFON has connected with over 1000 young people across the United Kingdom and beyond, including aspiring conservation professionals, wildlife enthusiasts, writers, artists, photographers and poets. It has also spearheaded the Vision for Nature campaign and report, setting out young people’s vision for the natural world.
AFON is now recruiting for the role of Associate Director, one of the two leaders of the organisation. You will play a pivotal role in the committee, managing, inspiring and motivating Committee members to fulfil their roles to the best of their ability, support them in their roles and, in return, be supported in carrying out your own duties.
Alongside the Creative Director, you will play a key role in shaping the direction of the organisation, steering members and the committee through the coming years. You will be responsible for overseeing engagement through the organisation’s communications, mentoring and membership schemes, through partnership building and crucially through campaigning. The Associate Director will take the lead on the organisation’s ongoing Vision for Nature and Now for Nature work. This is an outstanding opportunity to develop your CV with a nationally recognised organisation, learn new skills and influence the future direction of A Focus On Nature, including campaigns, attitudes and ambitions.
Applicants must be below the age of 28 at the time of application. We ask for a date of birth to ensure this. We hope that the suitable applicant will take on the role for a period of no less than two years, and no more than three years. Please note that all roles are operated on a voluntary basis, with a small stipend available to cover expenses.
Duties & responsibilities:
To shape the direction and vision for the organisation.
To represent A Focus On Nature in national and local forums and with partners.
To support the Creative Director and other Committee members, directly managing some of them, in a responsible and achievable manner.
To manage existing relationships with external partners and supporters.
To form and maintain new partnerships.
To motivate and inspire the committee to achieve as much as possible and to support them in their roles.
To make decisions that ultimately benefits the organisation in the short and long term.
To take financial responsibility for the organisation, budgets and fundraising.
To assist with planning and delivering new and inspiring events for members where needed.
To mediate and find positive solutions for individuals and the organisation.
To take ultimate responsibility for ensuring the organisation complies with the law, in particular around child protection.
– To lead AFON’s ongoing work on the Vision for Nature and Now for Nature campaigns, increasing young people’s awareness of the links between nature and politics and working to build campaigns that raise the awareness of the growing national and international youth nature movement.
Demonstrable leadership skills, with ability to motivate and inspire members and partners.
Confidence in public-facing situations, including substantial experience in public speaking.
Diplomacy, mediation, discretion and empathy in tricky or delicate situations.
Positive person who enjoys finding solutions and new opportunities.
Excellent relationship management, being accessible for members and partners.
Ability to delegate and manage people effectively.
It is anticipated the role will require an average of 5-10 hours per week. This is usually achievable around a working day, but may require evening, weekend and very occasional weekday duties (attending conferences, events or meetings or handling press enquiries). Please do not take this lightly, particularly if it is on top of studying or an existing job. Being Director of A Focus On Nature can, at times of large workload, feel like having a second job.
You will sit on the Committee for A Focus On Nature. We usually take decisions in consensus, but occasionally you may have to manage differences of opinion between committee members or between the committee and yourself; however there will be instances where you and the Creative Director may be required to take strategic, sensitive or crucial decisions, and this may at times involve decision-making around the safety or wellbeing of young people or the future structure of the organisation.
You’ll need to email us with a bit of information about yourself, and to answer a few questions…
We’ll need your:
Date of birth:
And you’ll need to let us know the answers to a few key questions (Max.300 words per answer):
What has motivated you to apply for this role?
What do you think A Focus On Nature has achieved in the past five years?
What do you see as the major challenges for the organisation in the coming years and how would you take advantage of them?
How do your meet the criteria for being Associate Director?
How do you see this role benefiting your own personal aspirations?
How to apply:
Please submit a copy of your CV with a word document answering the questions above and stating your name, date of birth and email address to Ben Eagle at email@example.com
Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed over skype by at least two members of the A Focus On Nature committee.
If you want to be taken on a journey through the varied patchwork of the UK’s landscape then this book is for you. Starting the journey on the highly managed setting of the UK’s farmlands, Stephen Moss takes the reader all the way to the heady heights of rewilding – letting go of control altogether and seeing what nature does if it’s untouched.