RSPB Conservation Science Award winner Alienor Chauvenet

Alienor Chauvenet is a quantitative ecologist and recent winner of the RSPB Conservation Science Award. She works as an ecological modeller for the National Wildlife Management Centre in York, and as a research assistant at the Institute of Zoology in London. With two jobs in two cities 250 miles from each other, she lives a bit of a schizophrenic life…

Why do you work in conservation science?

It’s a way to combine my love of science, animals and my desire to make a difference for them. Biodiversity loss is a massive problem and my job allows me to play a part in trying to stem it.

Alienor_Chauvenet

How did you win an RSPB Conservation Science Award?

I won the award for my PhD, which I did jointly between the Institute of Zoology (ZSL) and Imperial College London. My supervisor Nathalie Pettorelli nominated me, and the RSPB liked how my work is an important contribution to the conservation of the rare New Zealand stitchbird, and how it has the potential to have a significant impact on the conservation of many other species globally.

What’s the best part of the job?

My job is quite varied and, for a conservationist, it can be a bit abstract sometimes, but one of my favourite parts is when after working really hard to design and implement a meaningful model, it finally runs without a hitch and I get to see the results and the answer to my question. This is how I can make a difference for biodiversity.

What’s the worst part of the job?

Being a conservation scientist is a lovely job but, for me, it is mostly a desk-based job. So I suppose that the worst part is not getting to see wildlife in the flesh often enough.

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What key steps in your conservation career you have taken?

The key steps that have led me here were both by chance and by design. Although I’ve always loved animals, I did not realise I could have a career in conservation until I took a conservation module as an undergrad at the University of Queensland. I then went on to do a conservation-related honours project there, which showed me that a big part of conservation was research. From then on, I tried to steer my academic career towards conservation by doing the MSc in Conservation Science at Imperial College London. This gave me the opportunity to meet my future PhD supervisors which would offer me a conservation-focused thesis. I was very lucky to work at ZSL, where science of the highest standard meets high impact conservation.

What advice would you give someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?

I would say that it is important to know what you want in life. Do you want to be a conservation manager or do you want to be a conservation academic? You may not need to take the same route depending on that choice. If research is what you want to do, then my advice is to network with people you want to work with, and apply to any conservation PhD you might enjoy. Your PhD is not the end, but a mean to get to your dream job. I wish I had known that early on. In fact, I am amazed I still managed to get there in the end!

What’s your favourite song?

I don’t really have a favourite song but I can tell you which song inspired the name for my blog lostandfoundecologist.wordpress.com, which is “lost and found” by Katie Herzig. No need to read too much into it tough, I just really liked the melody and thought the title was fitting for a young researcher starting out her career.

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