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  • Writer's pictureKatie

Emma Ormond- Landscape conservationist- delivering practical conservation

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Today we have the awesome Emma Ormond! Emma is a practical conservationist managing beautiful nature reserves across North East Essex...

Short bio about yourself and your career:

How to introduce myself? I always find this difficult! In summary, I was born and raised in Pembrokeshire, spending much of my time on the beaches and coastal footpaths of Wales with my family. This also means that I am a lover of rugby and have watched ‘our boys’ win (and lose!) at the Cardiff stadium many times. I now live in Essex with my fiancé, Bones and our chickens, Foxy, Loxy and Roxy!

I have worked for Essex Wildlife Trust for ten years in three different roles and I am currently the Landscape Conservation Area Manager for north-east Essex. I absolutely love my job, the worst of rainy, mud-ridden days are still some of the best and my colleagues are passionate, intelligent (often a little unusual!) people, many of whom I am lucky to call friends and one of whom I’m due to marry (Covid-19 restrictions dependent!) later this year!

How did your career begin?

I have always had a passion for the natural environment, something innate and also instilled in me by my parents and as a result, I planted my first sapling aged just three years! As a teenager I spent several summers as a residential volunteer on Skokholm Island, learning much about bird recording and habitat management as well as cycling the country lanes with friends.

I metaphorically wandered for several years after I finished school, working in an insurance office and finally heading to Australia for a year of independent travelling. The experience gave me a much needed focus and upon my return, I started college (driving taxis and working in pubs to fund this) and progressed to university, studying Ecology at the University of East Anglia.

Following this, I worked for a precision engineering company as a Sales Development Coordinator whilst volunteering with an Essex Wildlife Trust Local Group. At the time I questioned the wisdom of acquiring so much university-related debt if I wasn’t able to ‘use’ my degree (with no relevant conservation jobs forthcoming). Nevertheless, I did enjoy my job on a superficial level, I continued to gain transferrable skills and even attended a product launch in Ho Chi Ming, Vietnam!

In May 2010, I applied for the role of Trust Secretary (now titled Office Manager) for Essex Wildlife Trust and although it was only maternity cover I took a chance and accepted the subsequent offer…… and I'm so glad that I did!

What does your job entail?

Following my position as Living Landscapes Coordinator, a role which focussed on partnerships and landowner engagement, my current role as Landscape Conservation Area Manager is focussed primarily on the management of our own nature reserves. Whilst I miss certain aspects of the Living Landscapes role including meeting many interesting landowners who are passionate about our environment, I am really enjoying concentrating my efforts on ensuring that our own sites remain wildlife havens as well as being quiet spaces for people to enjoy.

In addition, I am privileged to manage a small team of staff and a larger team of volunteers, all of whom continue to inspire me with their knowledge, dedication and (not to be underestimated!) good humour in all aspects of their role.

Emma gets involved in the conservation grazing herd lambing season.

Please highlight a conservation issue you are particularly involved in:

A major part of my role entails ensuring that our nature reserves are managed primarily for the benefit of wildlife but also for the enjoyment of people. Striking a balance can be difficult but whilst conserving biodiversity is vital, it is also important to recognise that many people, including me, developed their love of the natural world through their exploration of their local nature reserves.

Every nature reserve is different with its own benefits and vulnerabilities and each requires careful management to conserve its wildlife whilst meeting the needs of the local community who enjoy exploring them. It can be a real challenge at times but it’s a challenge upon which I thrive!

What can people do you help with this issue?

The majority of people who enjoy our sites do so responsibly but for those who may not have considered the consequence of their actions, I would ask them to join us in playing their part in protecting our reserves. Simple actions such as taking litter home, disposing of dog mess in the appropriate bins or taking it home where these don’t exist, keeping to paths so that plants don’t get trampled and keeping dogs on leads to minimise disturbance to wildlife all make a big difference to a site.

We are fortunate to have the support of many dedicated volunteers, all of whom enable us as a charity to protect wildlife but the more time they spend picking litter or fencing paths, the less time they have to manage habitats for the benefit of biodiversity.

The other area for which we would ask for people’s support it that of wildlife recording. A good understanding of the species which occupy our reserves enables us to manage the land accordingly. We, as staff and volunteers, record that which we find but our supporters from the wider community really are our ‘eyes and ears on the ground’. Any species, no matter how common, may be recorded on our dedicated website; which is used by area staff to make informed decisions for the future conservation of our land.

What is your greatest achievement?

Within my career with Essex Wildlife Trust, developing the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Projects has to be one of my greatest achievements of which I am proud. Wild Barn owl populations declined by seventy percent in fifty years during the twentieth century and the project was established in 2013 to address this concern in Essex. The project reached its fifth anniversary in 2018, shortly before I changed roles to become Area Manager and by this point nearly three hundred nest boxes were in-situ across the county and the project was actively supported by ninety-five dedicated volunteers.

Beyond work, I achieved a lifelong dream of learning to SCUBA dive, obtaining a PADI Openwater certification in 2002. Since then I have dived in Australia, Kenya and Belize…… I'm now working up the courage to dive the cold waters of the UK!

What is your favourite species and why?

This is a difficult question! As Living Landscapes Coordinator I spent five years coordinating the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project so its fair to say that I have a good knowledge and passion for this species (leading to colleagues referring to me as the ‘Barn Owl Lady’!).

Growing up in west Wales also gave me a love of sea birds, particularly Fulmars and Puffins but as we all know, its not all about the birds! The sight of a hare running across open grassland always causes my ‘heart to leap’ whilst an inquisitive bee-fly never fails to amuse!

Emma coordinated the Essex Barn Owl Conservation Project for 5 years.

What advice do you have for people wanting to pursue a career in wildlife and conservation?

Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Many conservationists started their careers as a volunteer, gaining a working knowledge of practical wildlife conservation and also an insight into the challenges associated with a charity and its often limited resources.

A good theoretical understanding of the principles and management techniques associated with wildlife conservation and land management is important but volunteering as a way of applying these principles is equally significant.

In addition, I’d recommend a flexible approach. Sometimes the wrong job with the right organisation can create unexpected opportunities; ten years ago when I applied for a maternity cover admin job I couldn’t have predicted that now I’d be an Area Manager in the Landscape Conservation team.

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