As we approach International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 on Thursday 11 February, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my career as a woman in science. I have always been interested in the natural world and was lucky to have parents who encouraged that - and are both scientists themselves!
One thing any person looking to pursue a career in conservation science should know is that conservation careers are competitive. But don’t let that put you off, because there are some very important things to remember...
Firstly, everything worth doing is competitive, so there isn’t much point dwelling on it.
Secondly, the field of conservation science is incredibly broad and becoming more diversified every day. There is no one ‘set path’ to a career in conservation science. You can build a career from many different starting points, following exciting opportunities and trajectories when they appear. A career is a journey!
Thirdly, skills are transferable. In my eclectic career history, I worked as an Education Officer for Cats Protection, giving talks to the public about responsible cat ownership. Although I couldn’t have known it at the time, this experience gave me a unique skill set and knowledge base, and directly contributed towards my current position with Saving Wildcats.
Lastly, and most importantly, you must believe in yourself and take every opportunity that comes along. Don’t allow anybody else to dictate what you are and are not capable of.
Being a scientist is not about being ‘brainy’ or academic or intellectual. It is just about being curious and always asking questions. What happened to wildcats in Scotland? Why have they hybridized with domestic cats, and how can we prevent that from happening? Those kinds of questions get me out of bed in the morning.
I recently became field manager for the Saving Wildcats partnership project based at Highland Wildlife Park. We are working to prevent the extinction of wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild. I manage the in-situ conservation side of the project, planning and implementing the field programme and managing the field team.
People often ask what my favourite part of the job is and are sometimes surprised by my answer... I love working with cats and being outside, but I particularly enjoy giving talks to local communities and working with volunteers. Getting people interested in the work we’re doing to save wildcats in Scotland is so rewarding.
If you'd like to hear more from me, or you have a question about the project, come along to our free Saving Wildcats community webinar on Tuesday 23 February. Register online at savingwildcats.org.uk/webinar
Dr Keri Langridge