Celebrating Women in Conservation

Photo: Zsuzsanna Bird

To commemorate International Women’s Day we celebrate some of the women behind Essex Wildlife Trust that are working to help protect wildlife and inspire a love of nature throughout Essex.

Monday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a global day that has been celebrating the achievements of women since 1911. Today, the day belongs to all groups and organisations collectively, celebrating women and promoting gender equality. Essex Wildlife Trust is supported and staffed by incredible women, making up 42% of our volunteers and 69% of our staff that work in every department area to help Essex Wildlife Trust do more for nature. We wanted to highlight just a few of these inspirational women working in conservation and celebrate their achievements.

Karen McKay

Karen McKay
Education and Community Officer
Favourite species: Spiders, especially the wasp spider and the nursery web spider.

After completing my Ecology degree, I started volunteering at Abberton to build up my practical skills. On my first day the Education Officer, Annabel Kendrick, needed a hand with a school group – and the rest, as they say, is history! Later, after completing a year as a Learning Support Assistant in a local primary school, I joined the team at Langdon in 1996, the year the first centre opened, meeting David Bellamy at the official opening that summer!What I love most about my role is the people – from the dedicated staff and amazing volunteers who have supported and inspired me, to the visitors, families and young people I have worked with, who make me smile every day with their fresh look at the natural world – you can’t help but feel happy when you look at a puddle the way a three-year-old does!There have been some hilarious moments since I started working at the Trust (being fed Monster Munch whilst wearing the badger suit at Lakeside!) and some emotional moments (watching the old centre come down) but my proudest moment was achieving my Forest School Leader qualification in 2015, thanks to Laura Harvey’s inspiring training. It has opened up a new area of engagement for me, which I believe truly connects all who take part; children, parents and teachers, with the natural world, in both physical and emotional ways.

Lisa Smart

Lisa Smart
Head of Visitor and Commercial Operations
Favourite species: Swift.

Working in conservation is all I have ever wanted to do, from the age of 17, and 35 years on I am still very passionate about making a difference. I have volunteered and worked for wildlife charities since leaving university, it’s hugely important that I do my absolute best for the organisation and our members. As a teenager the threat was acid rain, we now have the climate crisis, the role of conservation charities is more important than ever and to be part of the solution is really important to me.What I love most about the role is the variety, it’s a cliché but no two days are the same, and what ever you do, it’s all about the organisational goals, not about profit or personal gain, I can’t imagine not working for a charity, it’s very motivational. We have an amazing team of staff and I love hearing about and developing their ideas that will take Essex Wildlife Trust forward to achieve bigger and better.There are lots of achievements I am proud of, but being offered the role of Reserves Manager back in 2000 is my proudest, because it was the culmination of nearly 10 years of hard work, including dry stone walling in pouring rain, miles of fencing (ever tried putting a fencepost in solid limestone?) and years of on the job learning from many experienced colleagues, which was all worth it!

Keeley

Keeley Hazelhurst
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Favourite species: I do love an old oak tree (stability, longevity, nurturing, protecting).

What I love most about my role is being an enabler. I have no experience or skill in conservation per se, but I can make informed decisions, weigh up different scenarios, lead teams to reach the best solutions and drive progress. The Trust is full of really dedicated and experienced conservationists, educationalists, facilitators and volunteers and to be supporting this amazing team to fulfil their goals and to make a real impact in the county is an honour. Driving the strategy has been the biggest achievement. Identifying and understanding what is important to the Trust and our members, supporting the team to develop an ambitious and challenging strategy, and now starting to see the results and impact that they have made. What an amazing feeling, to see the evolution of the Trust and the realisation of what can be achieved with direction, teamwork and the outstanding commitment of the entire team.

Lily C

Lily Chambers
Communications Assistant
Favourite species: Stag beetle

I began as a Communications Intern at Essex Wildlife Trust after previous relevant job experience, volunteering experience and a degree in Zoology. After a year in this position I was given the opportunity to progress to an Assistant. I love how varied my role can be. I am involved with inspiring campaigns, filming vital conservation work at reserves, writing press releases about important wildlife news and I regularly get to interact with our passionate followers on social media. I have especially loved leading on the Trust’s popular photography competition and the exciting 30 Days Wild campaign. Both increase in popularity year on year which is fantastic to see.

Kelly O

Kelly Osborne
People Support Development Manager (FTC) / Volunteer Development Manager
Favourite species: Long-tailed tit

I studied Biology at university and really enjoyed the Global Change and Animal Behaviour modules. After graduating I went on to volunteer for the RSPB and then managed to get a position as a Trainee Reserves Officer with the Leicester and Rutland Wildlife Trust. From there I have worked and volunteered with lots of different conservation organisations to get to my current role. To work with so many people who are passionate about getting the best for nature and the environment is really inspiring. Every day is different and presents a new challenge but to see everything achieved by volunteering and working for something so important keeps me going. When I started my role at the Trust we had no central database of information for volunteers, getting this in place has made a world of difference to how we stay in touch and has been so important during this past year. I also love running induction sessions as it is a great chance to share the work that we do and get people excited about working with us. Also running outreach and engagement sessions to get people to come and volunteer with us is really exciting.

June L

June Lambert
Admin Support Volunteer at Hanningfield Nature Discovery Park
Favourite species: I love moorhen babies and this year I saw them being fed – so lovely!

I started volunteering at Hanningfield through a friend who was working there, and I just went along to support her. She has changed jobs since then, but I kept on and am still really enjoying it. I am a wheelchair user and never thought I would be able to be a volunteer at a nature reserve so it was a great surprise to me to see how much I could contribute.I love supporting wildlife conservation, engaging with the staff, visitors, and members. I enjoy the office environment and feeling useful. Spending time outdoors is good for our mental wellbeing and I can benefit from that also. I enjoyed participating in the Media training and am trying to get more involved in that area as well.There are several things that I have been proud of being involved with: being a member of the Volunteer Strategy Group and the Inclusion Group. The feedback I received after delivering an online Creative Writing Workshop session - ‘Natural Wellth as part of Wellbeing week made me feel fantastic and gave me a real sense of achievement.

Katie G

Katie Goldsbrough
Ranger
Favourite species: Brown long-eared bat

After learning about the many issues that our wildlife is currently facing, I made it my mission to actively contribute to helping nature. Living in Essex, I had the amazing opportunity to work for the wonderful Essex Wildlife Trust! I absolutely love playing an active part in helping different species and habitats to thrive. Watching Abberton grow as a nature reserve and seeing all the amazing wildlife that live there, makes me very proud and happy! My proudest achievement so far has to be planting over 6,500 trees during the winter of 2019/2020 with our amazing volunteers, creating a wonderful new scrub habitat for wildlife to enjoy in the years to come. We got very very muddy, it was great!

Ruth

Ruth Angrave
Landscape Conservation Area Officer (North-West)
Favourite species: Orange-tip butterfly as they are a sign of spring

I left teaching in 2013, and landed a skills for the future traineeship with Natural England, working on National Nature Reserves. They gave me all the training: practical, academic and on the job experience, for two years. I learnt so much in two years it was phenomenal. This was the job I wanted to do when I left university, but my parents couldn’t afford to support me while I volunteered. But I eventually made it and it really is the best job in the world!I love being outside, working on special sites that make a difference for wildlife and people. I have had some amazing encounters just because I am working in wild places. My most recent achievement I am proud of is getting approval to allow the planting of small leaved lime at West Wood nature reserve. This wood has been devastated by ash die back and the small leaved limes will not only help with the replacement of the ash but also hopefully make the woodland a little more resistant to climate change, as small leaved lime are a more southern species that can cope better with a warmer climate. When we got the approval from Natural England to plant some I actually did a little happy dance!

Kate H

Kate Hayward
Biological Records Centre Mapping Assistant, Landscape conservation
Favourite species: Hedgehog

I completed a degree in Environmental Studies and then went on to a Masters in Ecology as I really enjoyed that side of my first degree. I undertook some volunteering during the 1990’s, then some more distance learning with field trip weekends with the Field Studies Council.  I joined the Trust as a volunteer in 2002 and found a niche in biological mapping.  This suited me perfect as I could use all my learning even when not in the field. I have had quite a few health and mobility issues too to overcome over the years, but now I really enjoy the challenge of my work, mapping reserves, updating large datasets, formatting data and producing maps for management plans. Also, quite a bit of problem solving and learning more mapping skills is involved in my work. Being able to work helps me mentally as I feel able to contribute towards important conservation projects and society. I enjoy working with my team and the Trust.

The Wildlife Trusts also asked women from across the movement about their experiences of womanhood, joys of nature and how can the sector can be more inclusive for all women. Read their blog.