Today (Thursday 11th February) is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, so what better time to celebrate the women making a difference in the world of conservation science? As the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, we’re taking a look at what life is like as a woman in conservation science, and advice for others wanting to get into conservation science…

Founded in 1889, the RSPB began with the efforts of a group of women who were campaigning for the protection of birds in the plumage trade. Now, over 130 years later, the RSPB still campaigns for the rights of wildlife, works to preserve precious habitats, saves species and inspires others in the fight for nature.

Proud of the fantastic range of inspiring women who are part of their organisation, the RSPB have over 2,000 employees and more than 12,000 volunteers, the majority of which are female…

“I did a residential volunteer internship with the RSPB where I gained practical experience of managing a nature reserve. Learning species survey techniques, gaining qualifications to use machinery for habitat management, working with livestock and managing work parties – this gave me the experience I needed to get my first job with the RSPB as warden at Rainham Marshes.~ Nicole Khan (Conservation Advisor)

But what is it actually like to work in conservation science?

With the climate and ecological crisis on everyone’s minds, the importance of a role in conservation science has perhaps never been greater.  Working to save nature and our wild spaces can be a tough task, but rewarding all the same…

 “This morning, as I walked over the heath in clear blue skies with the wind stinging my cheeks, I heard woodlarks singing and realised it was definitely worth persevering through all the challenges I’d faced in bringing the practical project to fruition... I’d felt empowered to make all these things happen, and nature seemed to be saying thanks.” ~ Chloe Ryder (Budby South Forest Site Manager), on restoring heathland habitats.

What if I don’t know what role I want to follow?

Some of you may be lucky enough to already know the kind of career you’re after, but for others, simply being intrigued by nature can be enough to get you started…

 “Not knowing what career I wanted led to jobs in the public and private sector until I realised that my heart was in the charitable sector and the environmental sector specifically. So, my husband and I sold our flat and took a year out volunteering with different organisations… I felt passionately that I needed to play my part in creating real significant change as the nature I had known all my life was vanishing in front of my eyes, and I was lucky enough to join the wonderful RSPB 4 years                   ago.” ~ Emma Marsh (RSPB England Director)

How do I fit the skills I have into conservation science?

Conservation science, unlike the name suggests, isn’t just for scientists – many different skills are needed to make a difference. There are roles in the fight for nature that you may not have even heard of, or there might be skills you have that you’d never considered were related to saving wildlife and the environment before. 

 “I definitely didn’t imagine doing this job – it’s one of those niche roles you never know exists until you start feeling your way around the world of work. It’s a really interesting role; I get to be creative and exercise my writing skills to try and build a better future for birds of prey. It’s certainly not a job that appears in any kids’ books or on careers advisors’ lists… I just followed my interests, with some great encouragement from family and employers along the way, and I am delighted                              with where I’ve ended up!” ~ Jenny Shelton (Investigations Liaison Officer)

What shall I do next?

The climate challenges we face are likely to have the greatest impact on the younger generation. The RSPB are therefore providing more opportunities than ever to help empower young people to take action for nature and amplify their voices. Working together amongst others as passionate as you can really help to make a difference…

 "I always felt isolated as a teenager, as I didn't know anyone else who was interested in the environment in the same way as me… It brings me great satisfaction to see that there are so many young people that are interested in nature and conservation and want to turn that interest into action. Engaging young people in the RSPB can only be a good thing and I feel privileged to be a part of it.” ~ Faith Jordan (Assistant Warden Intern, Middleton Lakes, U25 Forum Member and                              Young Volunteer Group Leader, Sandwell Valley)