As International Women’s Day lands within Science Week, we thought we’d ask Dr Nicky Rivers, our Living Landscape Development Manager, to tell us how her scientific life and love of nature led her all over the world, culminating in her work with us where she makes a real difference to wildlife.
This was a significant step, not only for the variety of work experience I gained in my 9 months there, but also the contacts I made, which led onto me securing places as a graduate on the Cambridge University Meerkat research project in South Africa, and on another research project studying red grouse in the UK. I also gained zoology research experience studying delightful birds called superb fairy wrens in Canberra, Australia, and long-tailed tits closer to home in Sheffield. I recommend trying to get some experience in between periods of studying – ask at Universities and conservation NGOs for opportunities – you may have to ask several times!
After three years of working on these research projects and travelling, I started a PhD at Leeds University studying autumn swarming behaviour in British bats. The PhD was a really good mix of practical fieldwork and genetic studies in the lab. It was also applied and ‘real world’ – I was working with landowners and local bat groups and the results had a direct conservation application. I finished my PhD in 2005 and was lucky to be offered a job in ecological consultancy straight away due to my experience with bats. I was not sure if this was what I wanted to do, but I thought I would try it out. I worked in consultancy for one season and learnt a lot of very useful things, but it did re-confirm my suspicion it was not my preferred sector.
I took a sideways step and worked as a development officer for a small environmental charity until a position of South Yorkshire Biodiversity Coordinator came up in 2007, hosted by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. Having applied for several other jobs with conservation NGOs and Government agencies, and not being successful, I was delighted when I secured the job. I have been with the Trust ever since and was made Living Landscape Development Manager in 2012.
My work is really varied and includes commenting on planning applications in order to protect and enhance nature, to planning and developing landscape-scale conservation projects, to managing projects, to campaigning to stand up for wildlife. I love the variety of the work and being able to work as part of an organisation that really makes a difference on the ground. Although I am not ‘doing science’ on a daily basis anymore, I find my background and training in science really useful when it comes to working with partner organisations and thinking about how best to support nature’s recovery in the ‘real world’.
This edition of My Scientific Life was written by Dr Nicky Rivers MCIEEM, Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust.