The Society for Conservation – Oceania section is currently on the lookout for two new members to join the board (apply before 29th April!) . I’ve been a member of the SCB Oceania board for just over a year, and was this week in the ‘member spotlight‘ – which is a regular section of our newsletter where we highlight the work of our members.
Thanks to Bec Weeks for the interview!
SCBO: What has been the highlight of your research to date, and what has been the most interesting thing that you have learned?
ME: The highlight of my research so far is actually what I’m working on right now. I’m trying to understand the barriers and enablers to getting good outcomes from biodiversity offset policy, as perceived by key stakeholders. I’ve been doing interviews with a whole range of people involved in offset policy – from the mining and gas sectors, environmental consulting, lawyers, policymakers and business people. It’s been utterly fascinating. I’m quantitatively trained, with a background in ecology and maths, so qualitative research is very new to me. I’m mindful that this is not (yet) my core expertise, so I’ve been seeking out and getting a lot of advice from colleagues who are experts. I really get a kick out of policy-relevant, interdisciplinary research, and I hope to continue working in this area in the future.
How did you first hear about the Society for Conservation Biology?
I first heard about SCB while I was an Honours student at the University of Queensland. Everyone in the lab were members of SCB and went to the conferences, so it wasn’t long until I was a member too! SCB conferences are still hands down my favourite, because there’s such a great diversity of research on offer – natural and social sciences, quantitative and qualitative.
What made you put your name forward for election to the SCBO board?
I’ve been involved in a number of different volunteer groups and professional organisations over the years – to the point where I realised I was probably spreading myself too thinly, so I “downsized” when I started my PhD. But I wanted to join the SCBO board because I felt it could give me a real taste for how the SCB works, and expose me to new networks and opportunities. I also consider the SCB to be my closest professional “home”, so I thought I’d give it a crack. Happily, I was successful, and I’ve been part of the board for over a year now. I can very honestly say that SCBO is the most effective, efficient and friendliest board I’ve been a part of. In my experience I’ve found that when volunteering on a board, there’s usually only a handful of people who are active – but at SCBO everyone is busy doing something all the time. It’s really great – it just means you need to speak up fast if you want to help with something!
What’s the best thing about being an SCBO board member?
I patted a wombat. End of story.
OK, I’ll elaborate slightly. As a board we normally meet over Skype every 2 months, but once a year we try to meet in person to get a bunch of work done over a couple of days. In 2014 we met at Taronga Zoo, since one of our other board members (Bec Spindler) works there. So, in between developing strategic plans and allocating tasks, there just happened to be a wombat close by that needed a pat. We were just fulfilling our duty as conservationists.
Do you do any other “service” activities? How important do you think it is for scientists in academia to be engaged with the wider conservation community, beyond producing publications?
I actually find the word “service” really annoying – it implies that volunteering your time to help your profession or university or organisation is boring and an imposition. I know that some things are unavoidably dull, but I really think that “service” (obviously I haven’t come up with a better word) can be hugely rewarding, and is ideally mutually beneficial. Particularly for students – “service” activities can add loads to your CV and give you invaluable skills – critical listening, negotiation, organisation, communication, project management, leadership. People skills. Skills that you’re not going to automatically get from doing research, but are crucial for navigating a career in any sector. Other than SCBO, I’m currently the social media editor for Conservation Letters, and I’ve been a student representative on the board of my School (Fenner School at the Australian National University) for the last 3 years. I’ve got a huge amount out of both gigs. So the next time there’s an opportunity to join a committee, board (like SCBO!) or volunteer organisation, don’t think “ugh boring”, think “what can I get out of this?”.