Guest Blog Post by Isabel Vique
I grew up in a child’s dream. Every summer I spent my holidays in a tiny village in southern Spain, where the time seemed to have stopped and people seemed to have a real connection with nature. I can still see myself covered with mud, playing with earth worms, with my grandpa (who has that wisdom that only people from the countryside can have) smiling at me, while my dolls were forgotten in a corner. I remember going with him to the river, to the mountains…the smell of the vegetables, the colours of the flowers... And I still remember the moment I learned that when swallows fly close to the ground it means that the rain is coming.
Probably no one was surprised when I decided to study biology instead of medicine at university. As a biology major I learned a great deal of interesting things about animals and plants that would be very useful for a career in conservation. At the same time, my plan was to save the world, and all the species, so I volunteered in a conservation non-government organization (NGO).
After I left university, I had amazing opportunities to work with a number of NGOs, focusing on different aspects of conservation, including: education, management of volunteers, and also technical work. However, for some reason, when I showed people my data about biodiversity loss and the amazing graphs and excel sheets I used to build with them, they didn’t run to save the world as I was expecting. After observing this several times, I decided I was interested in finding ways to increase people’s passion about conservation. With this goal in mind, I left beautiful Spain to look for answers. I travelled through different countries and I worked in different organisations.
The author and fellow conservation leadership classmates with David Attenborough.
Photo courtesy of Isabel Vique.
One day, during my travels, a good friend of mine told me about the master of philosophy course in conservation leadership at University of Cambridge, and mentioned that this course was special because it targeted professionals with previous experience in conservation. Lecturers in this leadership course are both academics from the University of Cambridge as well as practitioners from some of the best known international conservation NGOs. So, I applied for the conservation leadership course, and was accepted! During the last year, I have been learning about economics, innovation, management, communication, governance… and many other things. Furthermore, my classmates are 21 outstanding professionals from 18 countries from all over the world. All of my classmates have extensive experience in conservation. I can certainly say that I have learned as much from my classmates as I have from my lecturers. Most recently, I am also participating in a project in one of the NGOs, using marketing tools (can you believe it?) to work against the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Central America. I will write my Masters’ thesis while learning about managing an authentic conservation leadership challenge.
Through all of my experiences I now understand that conservation is much more than biology, even though biology is a key piece of the puzzle for conservation, and I believe I have the tools to inspire people to be passionate about nature. I believe I can make the difference in conservation.