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Will Maclennan, UK – one of the four first volunteer interns selected for an assignment with WWF’s Youth Volunteer Internship Programme when it was created in 2005…

blogpostI got my degree in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen in June 2004 and since then I have not looked back. Today I am a senior marine environmental scientist at Atkins, which is a global design and engineering consultancy. I assess the potential impact of marine and coastal developments on Marine Protected Areas in the UK and abroad. These developments include flood defence schemes, port and harbour developments, hotel developments and offshore windfarms.

I am a chartered marine scientist and a member of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST). I work with all sorts of private developers, public sector consenting bodies and non-government organizations. I regularly meet with people and attend and give talks at conferences about marine biology and management of the marine environment.

Following my internship with the Tiger Conservation Project at WWF-India in 2005, I went out to Fiji to work as an assistant marine research coordinator with Frontier Conservation. While in Fiji I carried out lots of marine surveys and started a joint project with Frontier, WWF Fiji and the University of the South Pacific, tagging sea turtles on the island of Gau and raising awareness about turtle hunting and egg harvesting. From Fiji I went to New Zealand and did my training to become a PADI SCUBA Diving Instructor. From New Zealand I moved to Australia, where I worked as a SCUBA Instructor for one year, teaching and giving marine education talks.

After Australia I came back to England to do a Masters degree at Newcastle University in Tropical Coastal Management, where I went out to the Philippines to do my final thesis project with the University of the Philippines on coral transplantation and the effect that coral fragment removal for transplantation would have on the survival of the host coral colonies.

On finishing my Masters degree I went to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean to work as a research assistant for the School for Field Studies, a marine resource management research base, based at Boston University in America. I gave lectures to university students on marine resource management and took them out on field surveys, and taught coral, fish and mangrove ID skills as well as teaching SCUBA diving and maintaining boats and dive equipment.

I then returned to the UK and got a job at Natural England as a Lead Marine Advisor, providing advice to developers on the impacts of developments on English Marine Protected Areas, carrying out condition assessments of protected sites and sitting on management groups to help coordinate management of sites. Following this I became a Marine Evidence Specialist within Natural England, collating and assessing data for the first round of designations of new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) around England. I was also an active member of Natural England’s Dive team, carrying out subtidal condition assessments of protected marine features, such as seagrass beds and chalk reefs.

Following 6 years at Natural England, I got my job at Atkins last February, and have been here for one year now!

My experience with WWF had a massive impact on my career. It gave me the experience I needed to jump start my career and get my ‘foot through the door’ of environmental and conservation work. It looked really good on my CV (and still does) and it helped to show that I had a lot of very useful and transferable skills, such as working in remote locations, working with local communities, report writing, time management, working independently and part of a team, and being pro-active and enthusiastic about conservation work. All of these skills are instantly recognised by employers, and having my reports published on the WWF website also looked good and supported my CV very well.

Getting into conservation and environmental work can be difficult. There is a catch 22 where you cannot get a job without experience and you cannot get experience without a job. The WWF youth internship scheme helped solve this problem by giving me the experience I needed. Once I got my foot in the door, the rest was easy!

More about Will’s assignment with WWF-India on his WWF web page

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