Profession

I have been working as a forest ecologist and conservation biologist on a full time basis since 2003 although my involvement in the sector started a long time before this when I worked for a number of organisations on a voluntary basis.

I love my work. Despite its fair share of challenges and frustrations I feel imensely priviliged to be working in the sector I feel passionately about. I decided to focus my efforts in tropical forests because I believe that it is here where the need is greatest and where we are at risk of losing the most.

The following extract comes from an interview I did for mongabay (full interview can be seen here) where I was asked: What is your backgound?

Although born and raised in London (United Kingdom), my parents are of Spanish origin and as a child I would return to rural north-west Spain (Galicia) every year to spend the summer with my extended Spanish family. It was during these periods that my love of the natural world was born and blossomed. I particularly remember the conversations with my maternal grandfather, who had been a farmer and hunter all his life, where he would tell me how in his life time he had witnessed the disappearance of great swathes of forest along with the reduction in numbers of the species associated with them. One particularly poignant story he never tired of telling was the fact that he had seen his last wild deer in the area where he lived in 1940, the year my mother was born.

I did not, by any means, take a traditional route into conservation although as I have explained it has been in my blood from an early age. I did my undergraduate degree in life science at the University of Westminster and specialised in Ecology. At the end of this I became rather disillusioned with academia, particularly because a lot of it seemed too separated from the world at large, so I ended up going into the world of business. I eventually became a company shareholder and director. Throughout this time I continued my interest in nature and science while working on a voluntary basis with a variety of small UK based conservation charities which included the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), PlantLife International and The Woodland Trust, amongst others. Valuable lessons were learnt during this period of my life too and in particular I became aware of how important research is in terms of driving good policy and management decisions. This drove me to return the world of research so I enrolled to do a part-time Masters in Environmental Science at Birkbeck College (University of London). I had been out of the academic world for over 12 years by then but I found many of the business skills I had gained stood me in good stead. Over the duration of the course I became very conscious of the desperate environmental situation in many tropical countries. In the middle of my masters I enrolled on an expedition training course with Frontier. I spent six weeks in Madagascar where I witnessed the scale of destruction along with a real understanding of what we are at risk of losing. I was hooked and my vocation to pursue a career in tropical conservation was unstoppable. The following year after finishing my masters I was offered a sponsored place to do a second masters in Forest protection and conservation at Imperial College, London. I ended my business career then and there. I did my masters thesis in Parque Nacional Cususo (Honduras, Central America) with Operation Wallacea. After finishing my Masters I continued to do research in Parque Nacional Cususo for the following five years, initially on a freelance basis and subsequently as part of my PhD at the University of Oxford in “Biodiversity Indicators and Conservation Priorities”. I have not looked back since.

Projects - I have been very involved in two projects in the tropics