The second in our Jobs of the Wild series. This article will help you decide if conservation work or working with plants is for you. Huge thanks to David Black of Plantlife, Scotland for this information.

Plantlife

Plantlife is a national organisation raising the profile, celebrating the beauty and  protecting the future of the UK’s wild flowers, plants and fungi, from the wild spaces of nature reserves to the corridors of government. See Useful links below for more information.

David says: –
You can’t conserve nature unless everyone understands it and connects with it, and understands we are part of nature, we are not separate.”

Conservation Co-ordinator overview

Wild plants are being lost from our countryside, and David’s job is to try to stop this decline and help make the land richer and more diverse with wild plants.

  • Working with people who work the land as well as government organisations
  • Helping develop research projects and practical trials to understand how plants respond to management
  • Running workshops for land managers on how to manage their land for plants
  • Producing publications for land managers
  • Working closely with nature
  • Working with volunteers
  • Surveying and data collection
  • Organising plant identification courses
  • Assisting with the development of Scottish government policies relating to wild plants and fungi

Job description

Working with people who work on the land, and with the government organisations that make guidance policy for Scottish land use. I help develop research projects and practical trials to understand how plants respond to different types of management. I then take this knowledge to the land managers, through the production of publications and the running of demonstration workshops to let people know how to manage their land for wild plants and fungi.

I work with volunteers to survey and gather data on how plants are doing year on year, and organise training courses to help them identify plants and how to gather information. I then use this information to assist with the development of Scottish Government policies.

Income

Paid though if you’re looking for a high income job this is not the one for you, this is a vocation. We do it because we love it and we think it’s important.

Nil as a volunteer, but very high satisfaction.

We’re certainly not millionaires and are unlikely ever to be so! Funding is always a challenge but we can do wonders with what we get. It’s a very creative job.

Qualifications

  • Qualification in habitat management, ecology / environment science
  • At least two years’ experience of wildlife conservation management
  • Driving licence – being able to drive is an essential part of the job

You must have practical experience and not just a qualification. (David has been doing this kind of work in various organisations for 25 years and says he’s still learning!)

Training

Gaining good wildlife field skills for the area of work

Practical experience of project management.

David started as a volunteer when unemployed, gaining field skills experience. To gain employment he studied for a qualification obtaining a HND in Conservation Management.

Top Tips for interview

Show adaptability – you must be able to understand how plants fit into the environment, how they respond, connect and work within their environment and alongside human activities.

You also have to understand how other sectors work, eg farming and forestry.

Communication skills are important – in every part of the job you have to explain and help people understand why what you’re doing is important, and enthuse them to help us.

A very important part of the job is being able to work to a plan to deliver practical results – the people who fund projects need to see this is working.

Top tip for doing the job

Take waterproofs, sun-screen and midge repellent and a pencil for writing in the rain. Seriously though, you have to be approachable and understanding – listen first before telling.

Pros

  • I get to some fantastic parts of Scotland.
  • I get to meet people who want to do great things, and I get to help them along the way.
  • Making a difference – ranging from feeding into government policies to seeing the excitement and fascination of people when they find out the wonderful world of wild plants.

Cons

  • Filling in reports
  • Seeking funding
  • Midges!

Working hours

Irregular hours – wildlife doesn’t keep 9-5 hours and you have to work with the seasons – you have to be around when the plants are flowering.

Possible evening and weekends – if you have to engage with members of the public to win support for the cause you have to do that when they’re free, which may be evenings and weekends.

Travel

There can be a lot of travelling to important plant areas and nature reserves across the whole of Scotland plus travel to government offices to talk to civil servants and politicians, although many really appreciate getting out and about in the countryside and enjoy meeting David to walk on the land so they get to see the plants first hand.

Anything else to consider?

For this job to be effective there’s a need for everyone to understand how essential plants and fungi are to our existence on earth. We have to make the connection between plants and our lives to let people experience the joy of plants in themselves, and then how important they are and how the connect with everything else like pollinators, birds and other animals.

Why I love the job

There are a whole range of skills within my job: plant identification; focussing on habitat management; working with schools, land managers and advisors and high level policy-makers. You can work with the written word and arts and crafts as well as science as there are cultural aspects like social history to take into account.

David working in the field, and a Cinnabar moth caterpillar on Ragwort flowers

Useful links

To browse ALL our outdoor jobs in one place click on Jobs of the Wild.