This International Women’s Day we are celebrating the incredible women working across the family of 15 National Parks in the UK. We asked National Park staff what it is like working in Green spaces and for nature and what advice they have for other women looking to have a career in the environmental sector.
Charlotte has been a Ranger in Exmoor National Park for 6 years and had an interesting journey before finding her role as ranger.
“I used to work in scientific publishing, but after 5 years I wanted a change. I wanted to be in the outdoors more but had no idea what jobs existed in this sector as I had always been research and academic based. I volunteered with the Wildlife Trusts, and engaged in work experience with the Broads Authority, I got my chainsaw qualification and went to work in Iceland on hiking trails. My first role was with the Forestry Commission and I soon gained the practical experience I needed to be taken seriously as a candidate for a ranger role. I’ve since worked at the South Downs National Park who gave me my first break as an assistant ranger, I then moved to Exmoor 4 and a half years ago.
I find my job goes in seasonal waves – winter is spent carrying out path surveys and catching up on things like risk assessments, emails (yes we do emails!) and planning for the summer. We also have sporadic activities like pony round ups with our own herd of Exmoor ponies and deer counts to monitor populations. The spring and summer are all about engagement. My favourite event I run is ‘Rockpooling with a Ranger’. We help educate and engage people with all the wonderful critters that live on our seashores. As a ranger it’s our job to make people feel welcome in our National Park and help break down some of the barriers that prevent people from accessing Exmoor. We can help people learn more about the special habitats we have here that make our National Park worthy of protection.” We asked Charlotte what advice she had for others looking for a career in the outdoors. “Persevere” she says, “Often you’ll have to volunteer to gain additional skills required of you in a role, and this can take time especially when working alongside volunteering. Once you find your way in, find a good mentor or colleague who will support you to develop in your new role.”
Andrea is Environment Policy Adviser for the Broads National Park and has worked at the Authority for almost 25 years. We asked Andrea about her role, “I’ve always been interested in wetland ecosystems as they are so ‘nature rich’. After Uni I went to Bolivia to study high altitude saline lakes and coming back to East Anglia I landed a contract surveying the chemistry and biology of the Broads with the National Rivers Authority and one day a permanent job came up in the Broads, I applied and one role has led to another and now I find myself managing wetland restoration projects with farmers and other partners! The best part of my role is working with so many enthusiastic farmers and stakeholders who want to make a difference. Also, its great when we’re awarded a funding bid and take on new staff who are keen and make such a big difference to our small teams. I would advise others looking to enter the environmental sector to go for it! We spend a lot of life at work and it’s great to do something you enjoy, and if that’s working in the environment sector we need you!”
Jocasta is Communications Officer for the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project in the Cairngorms National Park. “I spend most of my time creating a variety of online and analogue content that raises awareness of both the issues facing the endangered capercaillie in Scotland, and the work of the project to help them. The best part of my job is getting to meet, gain knowledge from and work with such an incredible variety of people, from land managers to local community groups to conservation scientists and beyond.” We asked Jocasta what advice she has, “You are more than your grades & qualifications! There are more ways to work in the green economy than you think. Our National Park needs a whole breadth of different skills to carry out its work, and you never know where the sector will take you.”
Hayden is North Area Ranger for New Forest National Park. We asked Hayden how she got into her role “I did a 6 week volunteering role on a turtle conservation project which was meant to be a career break and then I was going to come back and focus on what I’d studied at university – photography. However it really opened my eyes to conservation and protecting the environment and I went on to gain more voluntary roles, internships and season jobs. I got to the point where I wanted to turn this passion into a career and that’s when an apprenticeship came up with the New Forest National Park. It allowed me to gain practical skills in the field whilst earning formal qualifications and gaining contacts in the sector. Every day is different – I love it. One day you can be out litter picking, and the next leading a group of volunteers on practical conservation tasks such as heathland regeneration, the next taking a group of young people out that have never experienced the National park before, or in the office planning and prepping for events at fetes and fares and out on the ground protecting red list species of ground nesting birds. It’s an amazing role – one I still can’t believe I get to do. I find the variety of my role rewarding, but specifically those moments where I get to take out people into the National Park that might not have experienced it before. Being able to make nature accessible to all is so special and seeing peoples faces light up and shoulders relax is so rewarding. If you are looking to enter the profession my advise would be to keep going. It sounds cliché, but if you love it, keep doing what you’re doing and always listen to others – you never know what you might learn.”
Sophie has worked for the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park for the last 2 years. “Whilst I was at University studying International Relations, I had to complete 80 hours of volunteering work. I did some practical environmental work in Costa Rica and this motivated me to continue volunteering when I got back to the UK. I volunteered with The Conservation Volunteers 2 days a week alongside my degree doing outdoor education work. When lockdown hit, I then did a free online Environmental Leadership course with the charity Uprising. After that, I volunteered with Friends of the Earth whilst working as a waitress. Combining my knowledge from Uni, the experience from voluntary work and skills I gained from hospitality got me a job in Policy. The advice I would give anyone looking to have a career in the Green economy is don’t be afraid of being underqualified or not having the correct experience. I am lucky that volunteering was appropriate for me to gain skills, but it isn’t accessible to everyone. Having any transferrable skills and knowing how to explain them well can get you into an entry-level role and you can build yourself up from there. Also, looking at the different types of jobs in National Parks, from planning and democratic services which is office based to wardens and meet and greet staff which is more outdoor based, there is such a range of stuff going on which often surprises people, and gives you a wider range of things to apply for.”
Jodie is the Head of Communications at the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Parks, she tells us more about her role, “The Brecon Beacons is both my home and my favourite place on the planet, so when the opportunity arose to lead the communications team I jumped at the chance! So much of my role is about influencing human behaviour to ensure our treasured landscape is protected by all. My job is to help people love and understand our environment – it’s the key to making people care. Care is what inspires us all to act, and we need everyone who loves the National Park to take action to help us meet our aims. It can range from simple actions like following the countryside code, to shifts in lifestyle to mitigate climate change. Every day brings new challenges, and I love to meet them. I have the huge privilege of being able to tell the stories of this incredible landscape. Learning about the people, places and nature of the Park is always really fascinating. The more I learn, the more I grown to love this place. I’ve worked across many sectors, but I’ve never met teams more passionate and committed than those who work for National Parks. It’s a hugely rewarding sector to work in, and it comes with the best views in the world!”
Keira is Canals, Community and Wellbeing Officer for Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. “I gained the skills I needed to do my job through a combination of work, study and volunteering, including running conservation events. In my role I particularly enjoy working with volunteers on biodiversity projects. It great to see the results of the work I do and to engage with the community. My advise to others looking to work in the environmental sector is Volunteering. It’s a great way to gain experience and learn about opportunities in the field.”
Simone is Director for Nature Recovery and Climate Change at Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park. “My role covers everything from external meetings and collaboration with our partners, speaking at events to internal operations work such as preparing budgets, liaising with the HR team to working with my colleagues on access and rights of way, peatland and habitat restoration, land management, conservation, education, engagement, policy or preparing briefings for the Authority.” We asked what advise Simone would give others “Do what you enjoy, be bold, listen, learn and make sure to have fun!’