Staff member answering phone

Wildlife Adviser

This job involves taking calls from the public, so you have to be a 'people-person.'

Q&A with Jess Chappell

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

What are your main duties and responsibilities?

I'm the frontline for any enquiries that come into the RSPB - anything from policy and law to people finding baby birds. Most of our enquiries come through by phone but we also receive e-mails and letters. My job is to either pass on these enquiries or deal with them myself.

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

Chaotic! The phone is ringing constantly, but I find it really exciting. You never know what it's going to be on the other end of the call, whether it will be someone asking about behaviour, identification, law, or just somebody who hates the RSPB ringing up to have a rant! The rest of the day is spent going through letters and e-mails, and working together to get through them all. We have a team of around 10 people at the minute. 

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

I did a BSc in Zoology. After university, alongside temp jobs, I volunteered for the RSPB at weekends, then spent two years working for them and partner organisations. I moved from a three-month, to a six-month then a year-long contract. 

After this I spent 12 months in Malta as an intern with BirdLife Malta, a partner of the RSPB. The position was funded by the European Voluntary Service and fully covered all my living and travel costs, as well as day-to-day expenses. The role required a lot of the same skills that I had developed with the RSPB. 

Having the opportunity to work for another BirdLife International partner was fantastic, and I have since become interested in learning more about international conservation. I am hoping to work with more BirdLife International partners in the future – something that I hadn't even considered until seeing the Malta internships advertised!

I also think that a good general knowledge about conservation, wildlife and RSPB policy is important for this role.

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

I think it's good that I'm interested in science and nature, and also that I'm a 'people person'. Sometimes we have to deal with people who are really horrible or angry, and sometimes those who are upset – I've had people crying down the phone! Then there are the old women who ring up because they're lonely and just need a chat. So being able to deal with all sorts of people is important. 

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

I love variety, and I love the opportunity to learn. Half the time I'll need to research something because somebody will call and ask me something that I don't know. I'm passionate about nature and conservation, and so to spend my days learning more about it is great. I also love the RSPB, I think that they're a fantastic organisation to work for.

Are there any downsides?

It can get a bit repetitive, especially in the spring when a lot of the enquiries are about baby birds. But I don't mind too much, sometimes I just end up operating on autopilot.