Durrell Women: Helen Gath - Conservation Training Officer
How long have you worked at Durrell and what does your job involve?
I have worked for Durrell for a year now. Working with the Durrell Conservation Academy, I facilitate and deliver a range of training opportunities for aspiring and professional conservation practitioners. This includes the historically successful Durrell Endangered Species Management (DESMAN) course, as well as implementing new projects, such as a bespoke professional development programme.
What did you do before coming to work at Durrell?
I have always been passionate about working in conservation, and before joining Durrell I had been developing a suite of skills in roles both overseas and in the UK. I dove straight in with field work, working in Mauritius on Round Island for nearly three years, a remarkable habitat restoration programme that Durrell has supported since the 1970s. Filling a short-term position as Assistant Field Manager with DEFRA, I gathered some amazing experience working with government and policy makers before moving on to complete a PhD with UCL. My research explored the population demographics of the echo parakeet, once the rarest parrot in the world and one of several Mauritian birds saved from the brink of extinction. Over time I have also worked with ecological consultancies, been a research assistant, and worked with local wildlife trusts to develop student outreach programmes.
What were some of the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your career so far, and how did you overcome them?
Really recognising my strengths and being able to articulate them has been tough. Conservation is a rapidly growing, multidisciplinary area of work. It has taken self-reflection and perseverance to break away from the roles I thought I should have in order to find my niche and excel.
What advice would you give to others thinking of pursuing a similar role?
Being adaptable and responding to opportunities is key to working in conservation. If you are keen to follow a career path in teaching or training, get as much experience in communication as possible to develop your confidence and expertise. Teaching, guiding, presentations, podcasts, class planning… get involved! The best way to develop yourself is to challenge yourself, so think outside of the box and gain experience in a range of contexts, enabling you to effectively communicate to almost anyone, anywhere. Finally, I cannot overemphasise the importance of establishing and maintaining networks. Conservation is as much about working with people as it is with animals, and valuing this will help you grow personally and professionally in a hyperconnected world. I get so much joy from the people I meet and the lessons they teach me.
Posted 11 March 2021