Unlocking your power for conservation with Dr Rebecca Jefferson
If you are passionate about wildlife and conservation, you have probably wondered about the role people can play in conservation. You are not alone. Dr Rebecca Jefferson, Marine Social Scientist, Founder and Director of Human Nature asked herself the same question when she was seeking a career in ocean conservation.
Since Dr. Jefferson was a young child, she felt a strong connection with the marine ecosystem, especially with rock pools. Hence, she pursued an undergraduate and master’s degree in marine biology.
As a student, she started to realize that marine ecology or biology alone wouldn’t resolve ocean problems. And if humans were part of the problem, shouldn’t we be part of the solution? That question led her into an exploration of human behaviour.
As a graduate student, she chose modules that brought her closer to social science, such as law, economy, and ethics. And, for her interdisciplinary PhD she merged her two passions: marine science and human behaviour.
After a few years in the field, Dr Jefferson saw the opportunity to have an impact on wildlife conservation from another perspective – through social enterprise. In January 2020 she launched Human Nature, a social enterprise unlocking the power of social science for people and conservation.
In Human Nature, she mentors organizational leaders and empowers individuals through courses and catalyst programmes to help them confidently understand and apply social science in their conservation efforts.
Don’t let imposter syndrome and fear get in the way
Sometimes the lack of extra capacity can be tricky when running a business. Especially when something unpredicted comes up, and there is no spare capacity to support you. What is more, dealing with fear, perfectionism, and impostor syndrome can happen. This is something she had to deal with when she decided to launch Human Nature:
“I was terrified to put things out and say: I can deliver this transformation that I’m offering you. I’ve had to learn to see imposter syndrome before it arrives. Notice it, and then, find ways to deal with it before it paralyzed me.”
To work through fear and impostor syndrome, Dr Jefferson suggests getting a piece of paper, write down what are you scared of, journal it, and rationalize it. Or talk to somebody else and try to work through it.
Working through those challenges was completely worth it for her. As she proudly tells me, “Since 2020, Human Nature has trained and mentored more than 250 conservationists from 20 countries.”
How to unlock your power for conservation?
Dr Jefferson thinks there are two important pieces of advice when getting into social science and conservation: (1) build a support network and (2) manage feeling stuck.
When it comes to building a supporting network she shares:
“One of the things that keeps us going is a support network, where you can learn from interdisciplinary and different ways of working. So, for those entering their careers in social science, I would say read papers, use Google Scholar, and look for research that is relevant to your topic of interest. Watch webinars, reach out and connect to people.”
Dr Jefferson also reinforces the value of being transparent when sharing her journey and experiences. Sometimes, we don’t get everything we wanted. We all have moments or experiences where we felt stuck but help us grow in some way. As she explains,
“I can remember early in my career feeling like there was this horrible black hole in front of me wondering what my job was going to be. What I know now is that it’s okay to feel stuck. But it’s not okay to stay stuck. As long as you find a way to keep going, that’s okay.”
Dr Jefferson suggests finding yourself in other areas or spaces would give you the strength to keep going and design a path to your dreams. Because at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, it can still turn out all right, and the world needs us.
Running your own conservation business
A day in Dr Jefferson’s life has different activities as she steps into multiple roles. As the only person working at Human Nature, she puts on different hats. From being the CEO managing the business to the Social Scientist ensuring her clients have the tools and assets to grow. As we laugh at her packed to do list she shares:
“As it’s just me, I do everything in Human Nature. You can find me writing the business strategy, creating Canva titles, reviewing cash flows, or finding ways to connect with my audience through social media, posts, or blogs. I develop the content for the programmes and run the courses. And I like to keep an eye on recent research to know what is happening.”
At the end of the day, she finds working with people is the best part of running Human Nature.
“Helping my clients overcome their challenges, looking at their results, and witnessing the difference that Human Nature’s programmes can unlock for conservation professionals and organisations….that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Passion, kindness, professionalism, and encouragement are what makes Dr Rebecca Jefferson and Human Nature an asset for conservation efforts. She helps other aspiring and early career conservationists see that there are multiple roles needed in conservation. As she adds:
“There are different jobs that can be done and need to be done in so many different spaces. And if you’re not comfortable in one, or if it doesn’t feel quite right, learn new things, and look for other options. Don’t be afraid to move into different channels.”
And, if you want to listen to Rebecca talking about Social Science and feel inspired by her work you can listen to this Conservation Careers Podcast episode.
My personal advice is, if you are looking for an ocean social science network to join, you can explore: Marine Social Science Network.
Author Profile | Giuliana Vomero
Giuliana is a Marine Biologist born and raised in Uruguay, South America. She is passionate about bridging ocean and marine science with society. She has gathered experience in coordinating environmental outreach projects, events, and networking building. In her free time she loves to write and share the wonders of the ocean and stories behind the work of passionate conservationists worldwide.
Check out more conservation interviews by Giuliana.