Conservation Science: Research Biologist Mark Eaton analysing data from the Big Garden Birdwatch

Species Recovery Officer

It might surprise you to learn that helping species to recover requires fantastic communication skills.

Q&A with Alice Ward-Francis

Job title: Species Recovery Officer 
Company: RSPB 
Location: UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Bedfordshire  
Typical hours: 9am until 5.15 pm, five days a week

What are your main duties and responsibilities?

They include co-ordinating the Farmland Species Recovery Group, which has 21 of our priority farmland birds in it. So we are responsible for the planning and reporting on these species, and we look after the action plans for them.

I also lead on climate change for the team, so I'm currently assessing our priority species against a risk assessment, too. And I also work on integrating species into Futurescapes [an RSPB project to provide more space for nature across the UK].

Can you describe a typical day in (or out) of the office?

It would involve lots of talking to people, catching up, going through my quite long list of e-mails, managing spreadsheets and lots of Word documents, and managing calendars and that kind of thing.

Which qualifications are useful or necessary for this field of work?

The qualifications that I got for this job were a Masters in Conservation Biology, and prior to that I did a degree in English and Drama. The English and Drama gave me really great communication experience, and obviously Conservation Biology set me up for doing my job today.

Which personal qualities do you feel make you suited to this job?

Being able to get on with a wide range of people, and having great communication skills. I think organisation is a really important skill to have, as well as being very focused on my work and having quite a lot of energy.

Which route did you take to enter this field of work?

I initially did a degree in English and Drama, which might not seem the most obvious place to start. Following that, I did a few travelling experiences. I've always had a great passion for the natural world, and I cared deeply about the environment, and I suppose it felt very natural for me to progress these feelings into my career.

From doing my Masters I did quite a lot of volunteering experience for about a year, in various different organisations, including BirdLife International. I based myself in Cambridge, because there was quite a lot of opportunity around this area in conservation.

I then applied for a job with my team as an assistant on a short-term contract, and they must have thought I was pretty good, because they decided to get me for longer!

For you, what makes it worth coming into work each day?

The fantastic feeling in the office. We have a great team and I really get on with all the people that I work with. I feel really supported by them, and of course I really love my job. I have very exciting things to do, and as I said, I'm very passionate about the environment and I think that really drives me in coming into work each day. 

Are there any downsides?

The downsides of working in conservation in general, I would say, is that there is very high competition, so lots of people are going for not as many jobs. Moneywise, the pay is probably not that high when you compare it to other things that a Masters level student, or Degree level, might be able to get. So I'd say those are the two major downsides for me. 

Alice Ward-Francis - Species Recovery Officer

An interview with Alice Ward-Francis, Species Recovery Officer at The Lodge

Alice Ward-Francis discusses her main duties as Species Recovery Officer and what qualifications and experience led her to this job.

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Alice Ward-Francis, Species Recovery Officer - video screenshot