Senior Ecologist

It might seem a tall order, but ecologists are responsible for looking after our past, present and future.  We all live in one world and we must look after it: it is their job to make sure we do.  Ecologists work within a team empowered to manage environmental and conservation policy in the local area.  They play an important part in formulating policies that pay proper regard to the principles of biodiversity, conservation and sustainability - treating our resources (water, land, wildlife and plant life) with respect and thereby preserving the overall health of the environment.  The post can be found in all types of authority except for county councils.

Work Environment
There is an office base but a lot of work takes place on outside sites, in science laboratories and at various meetings of environmental groups.  Work can be dirty and affected by the weather but appropriate clothing is provided.  The standard working week is 37 hours.

Daily Activities
Ecologists are members of the environmental policy and conservation group which gives guidance on proposed local plans which relate to agriculture, archaeology, biodiversity, building heritage, environmental quality and landscape.  They ensure that any change in land use (new motorway building, factories, sewage plants, over- intensive farming, landfill sites etc) enhances the environment and causes as little harm as possible.  Two key concepts lie at the heart of the job: biodiversity (the rich range of life forms such as plants, woodland, hedgerows, animals, insects, birds, butterflies) and nature conservation.  They are encompassed in the overriding principle of sustainability - living, playing and working without harming the environment.  Often, the work causes conflicts with other parties who are not especially concerned about the environment - planners, developers, waste disposal operators and farmers and walkers who may clash over rights of way, for example.  Ecologists have to accommodate different aims and strike an appropriate balance of interests. 

In monitoring the relationship between people and the environment, ecologists raise awareness of the importance of managing our natural resources wisely and respecting our natural habitat- putting back into the earth what we take out by recycling and effective waste management.  On a daily basis they work against dangerous and ruthless exploitation of land, water, animal and plant life.  They are particularly engaged in matters relating to the Local Government Act and the Countryside and Rights of Way (CroW) Act which means daily liaison with conservation architects, archaeologists, agricultural officers, landscape architects, trees and woodlands officers, planners, waste management officers and others.  They may also work with the architectural conservation and archaeology teams that protect our built heritage.  Listed buildings or barns where owls and rare birds nest become both an ecological interest as well as an historic one.  So, how does philosophy translate into practice?  It is the duty of ecologists to:

  • review nature conservation strategy in the context of community planning and environmental well being; 
  • prepare and direct the implementation of biodiversity action programmes and ecological responsibilities associated with the CRoW Act;
  • advise on policies for minerals and waste plans, land management, land holdings, local nature reserves and sites of nature conservation and how they are managed;
  • monitor specific habitat and species initiatives and in particular the biodiversity group schemes;
  • support the development of storage and retrieval mechanisms to provide a comprehensive record of ecological data.

They are also responsible for establishing close working relationships with relevant government organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs) such as charities and action groups, the private sector, community groups, farmers, landowners, history societies, academics, students, researchers, developers, elected members, MPs and the public to ensure the conservation of the county's wildlife and natural habitats by promoting good conservation practice and projects.  In addition, they help train other environmental services staff and are involved with exhibitions, lectures and publications designed to educate people about the importance of ecology.

Skills & Interests
You would need to be able to show that you have:

  • working knowledge of British flora and fauna; 
  • presentation skills using a variety of media and forms;
  • ability to interact with a wide range and level of people;
  • computer literacy;
  • project management skills;
  • good oral, written and interpersonal skills;
  • ability to analyse technological ecological data;
  • team working skills as well as individual initiative;
  • ability to interpret and impart technical information.

Entry Requirements
Degree in Ecology or related subject and membership of Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM), Landscape Institute (MLI) or equivalent is essential.  It is also necessary to have at least 5 years experience at a senior level, management of staff and business planning.  It is expected that you would have a management qualification, local government experience and have been a team and/or project leader, though this is not essential.  As an ecologist you would be expected to perform a similar range of duties except, perhaps, at a less strategic level than the senior ecologist.  You would also need to be working towards membership of the professional body rather than having it at the entry stage.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Environmental protection and environment is a growing industry and there are many opportunities for advancement - locally, nationally and internationally.  The next step up for the senior ecologist in local government would be Group Manager, responsible for conservation architecture, archaeology, sustainability, agriculture, landscape, trees and landscape and heritage buildings.

Further Information & Services
Association of Local Government Ecologists
British Ecological Society
Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
Journal of Ecology
Landscape Institute
The International Association for Landscape Ecology

Careers Wales have produced a Spotlight article on careers in food and farming:

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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