Being a naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife detective with Ed Drewitt
Ed Drewitt is a naturalist, author, broadcaster, tour leader, birder, photographer, public speaker, bird ringer, zoologist, diver, feather expert, and Peregrin researcher. Here Ed kindly shares his conservation careers advice…
Why do you work in conservation?
I´ve always been interested in wildlife, particularly birds, since I was six or seven – and was encouraged by my family and my biology teacher. I didn’t want to go to university, but my biology teacher, Miss Wood, really encouraged me to, so I would learn more about nature and wildlife conservation but also about the people side of things.
I went to Bristol University because of the BBC Natural History Unit, but soon realised there was a lot more at university that enabled me to thrive and get involved in so many hands-on things. What really got me into it was just being engaged, getting hands-on with, and enjoying nature when I was young and being fully supported by that network around me.
How would you describe your job to others?
I am a naturalist and broadcaster and a wildlife detective as well. A lot of my work involves working with Peregrine Falcons, and helping to identify things that people find. What I do is engage people with the natural world and with conservation.
With me it’s about enabling, empowering, and enthusing people so they can do things themselves. And I do that different ways, from broadcasting with the BBC, to simply taking people out and getting them to listen, see, touch and engage with nature. Giving talks as well, telling stories that engage people so they can go away and understand certain concepts.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Enabling people to realize that they can do things themselves. I think that there are a lot of people out there that feel they can´t become part of something because they don’t know enough. But actually it is simply about being willing, curious and interested to enjoy nature. I enjoy taking out people who wouldn’t normally step foot in a woodland or who have never been to the seaside before.
The other thing I enjoy is making sure that the job is done properly. When you are taking children out you have to make sure that they are learning something, that they are developing skills or changing their attitude about being outdoors. It´s about making sure that every child counts. And that is what I hope separates me from other people. For me the challenge that I enjoy most is to make sure that they do go away understanding why they’ve done what they’ve done.
Are there any particular frustrations or challenges in your line of work?
There are a few. One of the things I try to avoid is repetition. One reason that I enjoy doing the range of things that I do is because they offer a real variety and difference. Repetition for me just takes away creativity. Another frustration for me, sometimes, is that we all stay in our same bubbles quite often in conservation. Those bubbles that we sit in are important, because you´ve got support, you’ve got peers or colleagues, and that provides a very important network. But I also find it frustrating because I don´t think we take ourselves out of our comfort zones enough. For example, when I was writing my book on peregrines I took the plunge to contact the Royal Pigeon Racing association. I met with the director, and I was out of my comfort zone, but I thought that to make sure the book was balanced I needed to be doing that. And I had a really good, productive meeting.
When you look back at your career so far are there any key milestones that have been particularly important to leading you to where you are know?
One of those was dabbling in things before I graduated. A lot of the people that I’ve seen who have managed to go on quite quickly into employment, or certainly into quite key volunteer roles, are those people had been very proactive as a student. The people that I see getting stuck are those that don´t acknowledge that they need to do something until they are in their final year and by then it’s too late.
Another milestone was Bristol. When I came, I had a real curiosity for the fact that we didn’t have Peregrine Falcons in Surrey, where I came from. I got in touch with people studying peregrines in Bristol, and started studying their diet and prey.
I worked at the Bristol Zoo for a bit, then for the Recycling Consortium, and worked with schools for the RSPB, and went on to work at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Now, I am at a point in my career where I have the opportunity to train people and pass on those skills I’ve learned over the years. This year I´m going to be training people to do bird surveying with the BTO. Which I am excited about.
Have you got any other hints or tips?
Dabbling with things, like I said, from joining clubs, to contacting different research projects in a university, there are any number of things. If you hone in on something quite specific that can really help. The range of opportunities that are out there now, from communication to policies or things like being a warden. It’s just about doing the homework and seeing what is out there.
One thing that really annoys me is that a lot of young people want to become camera people and photographers. That is always going to be a sideline, you´re not going be able to make a lot of money out of that unless you are very fortunate. There is so much else that you can get into and still have contact with nature. Saying that though, if young people are getting more into nature through their camera work as a hobby this has got to be a positive thing still.
You have a book coming out, tell us about it.
The book, which is coming out in late May-June, is all about urban peregrines. The book is for people who want to study peregrine falcons but also for the lay person that just wants to find out more about them. It is a celebration of the urban peregrine. I have written it in a style that appeals to a wide range of people. You can preorder on the Natural History Book Service at www.nhbs.com
Final question, what´s your favorite song?
It´s The Scripts “Hall of Fame”. I like this one because of the association it has. In 2012, we´d just been to the bird ringing station on Gibraltar Point and I had got to hold a Nightjar. I heard that music on the radio for the first time, as were driving back to our cabin in Spain half an hour away. This song links me with doing something outdoors and with conservation.
To find out more about Ed, please visit his website at: http://www.eddrewitt.co.uk/
Conservation Careers Advice Map