Q&A with Jeff Knott
Job title: Species Policy Officer
Location: UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Bedfordshire
Typical hours: 9am until 5.15pm, five days a week
What are your main duties and responsibilities?
My main duties and responsibilities are very varied. In species policy we're working to protect different groups. My group of birds that I work on primarily are birds of prey. My responsibilities can be anything from talking to the scientists right through to advocating to other groups and even to government what should be done or changed.
Can you describe a typical day in (or out) of the office?
No two days are the same really but a typical day would usually involve lots of talking to different people, often unfortunately some arguing as well. I also try and persuade people what needs to be done and make sure that it is done to protect these birds. Particularly with birds of prey it's often around enforcing the laws.
Unusually for a lot of areas of RSPB work, we have the laws in place to protect birds of prey. The problem is making sure they're properly enforced.
Which qualifications are useful or necessary for this field of work?
For this job I think it's absolutely vital that you need a degree, as with a lot of jobs in conservation at the moment. Beyond that I don't really have any further academic qualifications that are specifically relevant to the role, it's more through the experience that I've gained through volunteering.
Which personal qualities do you feel make you suited to this job?
Personal qualities are very important, as well as qualifications, to succeed in the job that I do now. I need to be quite level-headed but at the same time prepared to argue the case, and in many cases deal with quite difficult people who often don't agree with the RSPB's basic view of the world.
The key qualities that I need to succeed are persuasiveness, dogged determination and a bit of a mean streak, maybe.
Which route did you take to enter this field of work?
Before I took on this role and started working professionally, I was involved in a lot of volunteering work, including for the RSPB through the Phoenix forum. This runs the RSPB membership for teenagers. It was brilliant not only because it got me known amongst circles of the RSPB (which I'm sure helped me get this current job now), but it also gave me a whole lot of fantastic experiences.
For example, I was lucky enough to go to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002. I was part of a UN delegation which was an eye-opening experience on many levels, and I like to think that it gave me some experience of the political aspects for the job I do today.
For you, what makes it worth coming into work each day?
The knowledge that what I'm doing day-in, day-out is helping to save birds of prey like eagles, red kites and falcons across the whole of the UK. Whilst it's fantastic for people to work out on the ground, for me I like the idea that what I'm doing is helping birds across the whole of the UK, rather than at just one particular site.
Are there any downsides?
I think the only downside to my job is that I do spend a lot of time in the office, looking at a computer, reviewing evidence or writing reports. But to be honest, I think that's balanced by the variety in what I do.
I love the fact that on any given day I could be talking to scientists, or I could be going out talking to MPs, or the Government, or other organisations, or even the media. And it's all really pointing to the one ultimate aim which is making sure we do the best as a Society to protect birds of prey.