It’s a Frog’s Life with Paul Furnborough
Paul Furnborough is a Conservation Officer with Froglife where he works as a reserve warden on the Hampton Nature Reserve – home to 30,000 great crested newts – and coordinates volunteers and manages projects. He is now studying for a Masters by Research, and his dream conservation job includes working outdoors, studying wildlife, learning species identification and contributing to conservation … so basically what he’s doing now.
What is Froglife?
Froglife is a national reptile and amphibian charity involved in a variety of projects. We work in direct conservation, for example habitat restoration, where we monitor and manage particular sites.
As a separate branch we also focus on education, working with school kids and disadvantaged groups. We also run national campaigns, and work in partnership with the Institute of Zoology to run the Frog Mortality Project.
What is your job, and what is it like on a day-to-day basis?
I work for Froglife as their Conservation Officer. In winter this involves physical work such as pond restoration and scrub cutting. During spring and summer, we switch to full-survey mode, including bird, reptile and butterfly surveys.
The work I do at the Hampton Nature Reserve is pretty varied. While at the office I project manage these programmes, and make sure the administrative aspects are up to date.
What is the balance between office work and field work, how much time do you spend outside?
For me, it is 50/50 but weighted towards outside work, as I spend half of my time out with volunteers. On top of that additional things pile up, such as site visits with funders and inductions for new staff and supporters. I have an “office season” between June and August, where I try to get as much office work done as possible.
What do you most enjoy about your role at Froglife?
I believe I have the perfect conservation job! I manage habitats during winter, and I lead surveys over the summer; which requires more technical skills, and I spend time with the volunteers. Finally, I am responsible for delivering projects, and that ties in very nicely with the rest of the work and my studies.
What challenges do you face in your job?
The most difficult thing, as a part-time worker, is to find the right balance. For all the summer work, because of the seasonal window, everything needs to be ready, from risk assessments to budgets. It is pretty tight with my limited office time. One of the less glamourous points includes washing up the volunteer session dishes as well!
Which have been the most important moments in your career?
I went straight from university to volunteering with one of the Wildlife Trust’s traineeships for a period of six months, which gave me a good baseline grounding in practical conservation work and surveys. I also volunteered with a local amphibian and reptile group and with Pond Conservation, both of which were good lead-ins to working at Froglife.
However, I believe the main step I took was the internship I did with The Wychwood Project in Oxfordshire. Here I worked one on one with the Volunteer Officer and was given the freedom to demonstrate project management and co-ordination skills, which are essential to all jobs but difficult to prove when you’re starting out- catch 22!
See Froglife’s Wildlife Ambassadors Project video below.
What advice would you offer to someone wanting to follow your footsteps?
If you want to work in conservation, it is useful to have an idea of what you area you want to work in. In the habitat management field, you will inevitably have to volunteer after you graduate. I recommend the Wildlife Trust’s traineeships, which provides excellent entry-level experience volunteer training. so scout around and be proactive in seeking out places where you can take these lead roles as a volunteer – even if the roles don’t yet exist!
It is also important to be strategic and identify what the requirements are for entry-level jobs. Once you have that baseline volunteer experience, I suggest to download job requirements regardless and compare your skills to the ones asked by the employer. That way, you identify the gaps in your CV and can better match the job market.
What is your favourite song?
Anger Management by Random Hand, fantastic ska punk band from Keighley