Is the Conservation Industry Accessible? Amber’s Story

Chats with Conservationists | Is the Conservation Industry Accessible? Amber’s Story | Pigments by Liv
Hi! I’m Amber Wyard, a conservationist and zoologist from north Wales in the UK. I recently graduated with a MSc in Zoo Conservation Biology and have a BSc in Mathematics. It’s fair to say my journey into conservation has been an unconventional one!

My Journey into the Conservation Industry

After finishing my undergraduate degree in maths, I was completely stuck on what to do next. I liked the idea of doing a master’s degree but knew that I didn’t want to fully focus on maths anymore.

I first looked at courses on mathematical biology, which was my favourite part of my degree. Then I eventually dropped maths altogether, and just focusing on what I was truly passionate about, conservation biology.

People are always surprised when I tell them I studied maths before switching to biology as it seems like a huge change! In some ways it was, but you’d be surprised how much maths has helped with my studies in conservation! I’d already had plenty of experience with statistics, and programs such as R. So when it came to doing my MSc, I could put more time and energy into the interesting parts of my course!

Chats with Conservationists | Is the Conservation Industry Accessible? Amber’s Story | Pigments by Liv

Inspiring a Career in Conservation

When I was four years old, my mum’s parents made a very spontaneous decision to move from south east England to north Wales, and we moved with them. It’s something I’ll be forever grateful for!

I’m not sure I would’ve ended up on the same path if I had spent my childhood in a big town and disconnected from nature. Instead, I spent my days exploring local woodlands and watching wildlife. Nature has always been a huge part of my life.

Zoos and education

Zoos have also been a huge inspiration for my passion for wildlife. As someone who’s family could never afford to travel abroad, zoos provided a personal experience with animals that I would otherwise only see in documentaries.

Luckily for me, my local zoo was Chester, one of the UK’s biggest and most impressive zoos. They are renowned advocates for wildlife conservation as well as education. I now volunteer there as a visitor engagement volunteer, which has sparked my passion for volunteering and science communication.

Chats with Conservationists | Is the Conservation Industry Accessible? Amber’s Story | Pigments by Liv

Is the Conservation Industry Accessible?

When I first started my MSc, I expected to be somewhat behind coming from a maths background. I knew that I would have to work extra hard just to keep up with everyone else. But surprisingly, that wasn’t really the case. What really held me back, and prevented me from catching up with my peers, was my economic background.

The Cost of Experience

I come from a low income, working class household, and I never really thought about how much this effected my future until recently. Everyone else on my course seemed to have had experience abroad, either completing fieldwork during their degree or taking a gap year to volunteer for several months overseas.

It had never bothered me until I was sat in an interview for a placement and was told that I was way behind everyone else in terms of experience, and so would struggle to get my foot in the door. It didn’t matter how much passion I had or how good I was academically.

I had never been able to afford to volunteer abroad or do an unpaid internship. For that reason, I was going to find it harder than everyone else to get a placement or work. Conservation was a lot more exclusive than I had expected, and until there are systemic changes to make the industry more inclusive, it will sadly stay that way.

Chats with Conservationists | Is the Conservation Industry Accessible? Amber’s Story | Pigments by Liv

Making the Conservation Industry Accessible

Following on from what I experienced during my MSc, I have become increasingly passionate about making conservation, and biology/science in general, more accessible. This industry shouldn’t just be for those who can afford it!

Being able to go to university, and especially to be able to complete a master’s degree, is a huge privilege. I learnt so much whilst completing my MSc. Not just in terms of biology, but important skills such as how to navigate scientific literature, how to write essays and literature reviews. I also earned a lot of transferrable skills for field work (although COVID-19 prevented me from actually putting these into practice!).

How can social media make the conservation industry more accessible?

Going to university should not be the only way to get these skills! I have recently started creating and publishing educational content on my Instagram (@amberconservation), to share what I learnt during my degree. I may not have much of a biology background but that is why sharing things I’ve learned from both of my degrees is so important.

Everyone has different skills and experience, whether it is conservation/biology based or not. Therefore, collaborating and exchanging knowledge is so important, everyone has something to contribute!

You don’t need a biology degree or a job in conservation to help protect our planet’s endangered species and ecosystems. You just need a passion for wildlife and the environment. Everyone can be a conservationist, it’s all about finding a way to help that suits you and your unique skillset!

Thank you so much for reading my blog. If you’d like to find out more about my conservation journey or just animal conservation in general, follow my Instagram (@amberconservation).

All the best,

Amber

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