Wildlife Conservation work – the inside story.
Mark Hewitt is a Wildlife Conservation Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Before joining the National Park two years ago, he worked for Natural England as a conservation officer and prior to that as a nature reserve manager.
The job includes providing habitat and species advice to a range of people including the general public, statutory organisations and landowners etc. In addition the National Park provides consultation advice on planning applications, organising surveys, undertaking surveys and advising on projects. Mark works closely with local communities to develop and manage local wildlife sites. Unlike other sites managed for one specific habitat or species, a National Park, by its very nature, covers a wide range of habitats and species. Some iconic species in the Yorkshire Dales would include Black Grouse, Red Squirrel, Peregrine Falcon, White Clawed Crayfish and the Northern Brown Argus butterfly. As a Wildlife Conservation Officer for the National Park, Mark works with this wide range of species and habitats over a 37.5 hour week that can involve evening or weekend work depending upon the projects involved. Along with a diversity of species, the work is pretty diverse too, providing advice and offering consultations take up most time but a fifth of the job is devoted to projects and community work, a further 10% of Mark's time is spent on development and policy work, the remaining third is evenly split between practical work and the inevitable administration.
A typical day might start, like so many others, with the checking of e-mails. These often throw up various queries that may need addressing immediately or can be put on the ‘to do’ list. Next may be responding to planning application consultations and perhaps attending a meeting about a road verge project with partner organisations. A site visit could take up the afternoon, looking at a local wildlife project providing advice and/or helping with practical tasks or time may be used in drawing together information to develop or take forward a project such as a new wetland creation scheme. Covering so many different tasks, often in tandem, you need to be adaptable and each new task and project brings new challenges and opportunities, some good, some bad.
To get a job like Mark's, an ecologically-based degree is a good start and experience is very important and depends on the role. In some parts of the job it can be gained in post, in other parts it may be a pre-requisite. Mark says he has learnt many new skills during his time at the Authority, "everything from working with a wide range of interest groups to the application of integrated GIS and databases". All National Park staff have access to recognised training either for new skills or for brushing up on old ones. Training is tailored to each member of staff. For Mark, this has covered legislation training, hillcraft and lone working training and some specific courses on species or habitats.
Mark says, "I have a great job and, to be honest, for me it was the experience I had gained through a range of roles and activities that made me suitable for the post. Whether it be volunteering or taking opportunities to try something different when in an existing post, I would say grab it even if it doesn’t seem that relevant at the time. It will build a wide range of experience that can be drawn on in a number of roles. To be executed well, these roles require passion and vision - so immerse yourself in the natural world!"
Yorkshire Dales national Park Authority 0300 4560030 www.yorkshiredales.org.uk
Updated information July 2016:
National Parks are committed to providing opportunities for people to gain experience in a range of disciplines and to that end we work with universities and other teaching establishments to facilitate research and provide opportunities to increase the experience of students.
In addition apprenticeships are becoming an ever more important component of our staffing structure with benefits to both the National Park staff and the apprentice.
Finally volunteering both with National Park Authorities directly and with other organisations engaged within National Parks should also be considered as highlighted in the main article.
One key piece of advice is check regularly with the National Park Authorities and other nature conservation organisations for research, volunteering, apprenticeship and job opportunities and of course use the services of organisations like Countryside Jobs Service.
More information can be found at