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University Director

Age: 49

Organisation: Northumbria University

Peter Glaves MCIEEM - Director of Enterprise and Engagement


Why did you decide on a career in ecology/environmental management, and when did you decide?

I started with a childhood interest in nature, a great biology teacher and then via volunteering realising how much fun and how interesting ecology and conservation work was.

How did you get started in the sector?  What qualifications and experience did you have? Have you gained any additional qualifications since?

BSc Applied Biology (ecology), PhD Woodland Ecology, PGCE (Further and Higher Education). Lots of training since – none formally qualified.

How long have you been in your current role?

Two years

What does a typical day involve? What are your responsibilities?

I am the Director of Enterprise and External Engagement. No typical day – variety is one of the best things about the job. There is a mixture of teaching/training, consultancy and practical environmental management with some research. My key responsibilities are – management: people, finance, projects etc. (this happens when you go higher in the profession – less time in the field and more behind a desk). But it is still fun and doing things which I care passionately about and which matter. Basically I am paid to hug trees and to help people understand how to do this.

What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have?

Basic field skills – to be able to identify plants and animals; an understanding of and interest in the environment and nature; understanding of law, planning, money and the skills needed to successfully manage a site; communication (written and verbal) skills; enthusiasm and ability to engage; drive – to keep surveying in the rain, cold….. These latter two are the most critical – you can train people to identify but can’t teach interest and enthusiasm.

Describe the aspects of your job you find particularly rewarding and those you find challenging?

Rewarding – the work makes a real different in protecting and enhancing nature. Seeing other people learn about and appreciate nature. Challenging – working with others who do not understand or appreciate nature and think you are just there to be a problem …. But it is rewarding when such people end up appreciating your work. The multidisciplinary nature of the work can also be challenging, drawing on knowledge of biology, pollution, law, management etc.

Describe your career progression so far and any plans you have for the future

Probably an atypical career path – volunteered whilst studying, as a result of which got a job in countryside management. Lots of short term and part-time contracts. More study. Permanent university post. Period of time working as a consultant. Current job.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the sector?

Get practical experience as a volunteer, go out – do it, learn the realities of the job, prove to others you can do the work. Make yourself stand out from the others looking for this type of work – don’t expect a range rover and a job in a National Park.