The Road Leading to Manx BirdLife – an interview with CEO Dora Querido
James Walker is currently employed as a summer bird surveyor for Manx BirdLife, so for his first assignment as a Conservation Careers Blogger he decided to interview their new CEO Dora Querido. Dora originally hails from Portugal and has worked on conservation projects in several countries.
Why did you choose conservation as a career?
It is actually quite a cliché, but basically because I wanted to save the planet. The reason that was a wish was because of my parents and Greenpeace. My parents because my mum kept complaining to the county to put trees on our street, but some neighbours didn’t like it due to the pollen and watered the trees with bleach. A cycle continued and my parent’s persistence that the trees had a right to be there and were good for us left an impression on me at a young age. When I was eleven or twelve Greenpeace were actively protesting against Oil platforms and ships, so I thought ’these guys need someone to help them out’ and I decided I wanted to become one of them from the idea that the planet needed someone to speak out for it.
Can you recall your favourite day of conservation work?
It is quite hard to choose, but I would go with a catch of Red Breasted Geese for the Life + Safe Grounds for Redbreasts project I was working on with the RSPB in January of this year. I was visiting the area to do an induction and the day we were there coincided with the first Goose catch of the winter. I got to help out due to my experience as a trainee bird ringer and ringing scriber, so I was able to handle the birds and release them. It was very fulfilling that you advise a project, using the funds as wisely as possible, but it is mainly desk work, emails and Skype conversations, so it was rewarding to be involved in the fieldwork and to handle an endangered species.
Over the course of your career what would you say has been your proudest achievement?
I always believe that the best is yet to happen, but I am proud that I had the strength and will to fulfil my dream from a young age and I think it takes some courage, especially having to leave my home country to do it. I’m also proud of getting my current job, because it was also an ambition from an early age to lead an organisation and have the opportunity to put my ideas forward and implement them.
What would your top piece of advice be for aspiring conservationists moving up the career ladder?
There are a lot of things! I am very keen on personal development and there are many things that have worked for me as well as hearing advice from other people. I asked for advice from the Conservation Director at the RSPB, Dr Martin Harper, and he told me the one thing that makes someone successful is knowing where they want to go. Find the job you would like to do in ten years and then find out how to get there. Get a mentor, formally or informally, to identify the skills you will need and help you find the experience to get there. If you don’t have a certain skill, I would always say volunteer for it to build your CV and experience. It is hard work, so do something you really love and are excited by.
Over the course of your career, what have you found to be the least appealing aspect of working in conservation?
When I came to the UK I started to get the impression that people expect you to earn less because you work in a conservation charity, and this feels wrong to me on many levels. I struggle to accept it and I wish people had a different perspective, but I still love what I do and wouldn’t do anything else anyway!
What roles have you undertaken to lead into your current position at Manx BirdLife?
The key one was my last job as a Project Coordinator with the RSPB which involved having an overview of finances, interpretation, education and media, alongside science and conservation. By having experience in all these areas I gained the knowledge and built the skills which have made it possible to be the Chief Executive Officer of Manx BirdLife.
What are the main duties of your current role?
I am responsible for implementing the strategy and vision for Manx BirdLife. This means I am responsible for managing the fieldwork team and any volunteers we may have as well as the finances of the organisation. I also represent and advocate the views of Manx BirdLife as a stakeholder in public events and meetings.
Can you reveal any exciting future plans you have for Manx BirdLife?
We are all excited about developing the Point of Ayre nature reserve, our first reserve for people and the birds. I am also excited about having an automated system to collect bird sightings, as it is a great way of engaging with the public which we are well known for and it is very useful for our database. The current system is very time consuming and it delays the relay time of a sighting so people will be able to go and see birds much more quickly with a new automatic system.
What is your favourite book?
My favourite book is called ‘The Panda’s Thumb’ by Stephen Jay Gould. It is about evolution in the natural world and I always loved the fact that earth has been here far longer than us and how habitats and species adapt to a specific environment.
Manx BirdLife was formed in 1997 to complete a full bird census on the Isle of Man, a total of 665 kilometre squares, to create the ‘Manx Bird Atlas’, the original name of the charity, and the Atlas was published in 2007. A documentary about the Isle of Man’s wildlife filmed and presented by the founder of the charity, Chris Sharpe was also a recent focus of work and is now available through the Duke Video website. The research for a repeat atlas currently has two years left to run, and the charity is in a period of evolution to expand its involvement in areas of conservation beyond scientific research as part of an ambitious future vision.
Many thanks to Dora for taking the time to do a really great interview – James.
To keep up to date with Manx BirdLife, you can follow news and sightings on their website, Facebook and Twitter through the links below:
About the author – James Walker
After gaining a degree in Wildlife and Practical Conservation from the University of Salford, James worked in forestry for seven months before moving to an internship with the RSPB in Wales, which has led to his current contract at Manx BirdLife. In the future he hopes to continue to gain the skills required to manage conservation projects, as well as increasing his profile in conservation writing.