Conservation setbacks? The secrets to lifting morale

Dr Jim Groombridge describes how to lead a conservation field team, even when the species in question disappears.

‘Conservation field teams are slightly quirky, and those quirks can define what makes a team work well or not.

‘One is that team leaders are rarely trained in management tasks, such as overseeing a budget, interacting with project partners and local governments, dealing with team members who feel passionate about what they do and facing the high stakes involved. Team members are enthusiastic, passionate and seldom motivated by money.’

Since his undergraduate degree, Dr Jim Groombridge has been part of several teams that work with critically endangered animals, including the Mauritius kestrel (Falco punctatus), which was brought back from the brink of extinction. But he has also experienced the devastation of some species being lost forever, despite all possible interventions. After receiving his PhD from Queen Mary University of London in 2000, he worked as a project coordinator at the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project in Makawao, Hawaii. Conservation science spans many topics including climate change, working with local communities, epidemiology, genomics and designing protected areas. Projects can range from single-species conservation to ecosystem-level or landscape conservation, such as restoring whole islands. He answers questions about in this Career Q&A in Nature Magazine.

‘They often share a passion for nature. They want to save the environment, they want to save a species from going extinct, they want to make a difference.’

‘That level of emotion is important. It creates an energy, which needs to be channelled proactively and positively into the project to make it a success.’

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