As a child, I spent a lot of time exploring woods in England and France—anything living fascinated me, and I had a strong need to explore and have adventures. Much later, based on this interest, I went to university to study biology. I thoroughly enjoyed this and still managed to spend a lot of time exploring the woods. When I left, I decided that it was time to go a bit further abroad.
Unfortunately the recession had just hit so there were very few jobs. Undeterred by this, I contacted people working on wildlife conservation and asked if I could come and volunteer. Within two months I was off to South Africa to work on jackass penguins (try telling your mother that you are off to Africa to work on jackass penguins with someone you met over the Internet and see how far that gets you). After that trip, I somehow managed to talk my way into a conservation science master’s program at Imperial College, which turned out to be one of the best choices of my life.
As part of this course, I went to the Comoro Islands to work on an owl species that was thought to number between 60 and 400 individuals. I climbed just about every mountain on an insanely mountainous little island in the Indian Ocean. It was an amazing experience. I met people who had never seen a white person before, saw bats with 2-metre wingspans, and learnt to run down a mountainside for hours in the pitch black. As an added bonus, I proved that there were actually 3,000 to 6,000 owls left and got an M.Sc. out of it!
After earning my master’s, I went to work for Frontier as the research and development manager. Whilst there I got sent out to Tanzania on 42 hours’ notice and worked on wildlife corridors, land-use plans, and large mammals for nine months. I don’t think I learnt so much in such a short time at any other point in my life. Unfortunately, a lot of the lessons I learnt were of the “don’t do that again” sort, but that’s the way of these things, I guess. I then transferred to London, doing the same job until I came to AWF.
I came to work on the Conservation Management Training Program because it looked like an incredible opportunity; during a time when jobs are rare, having an organization invest so heavily in you whilst at the same time being paid to go on adventures around Africa is a rather attractive prospect. I am someone who tends to have endless questions, so having a legitimate reason to ask horrifically important people whatever I like is also quite a lot of fun. I’m hoping to explore as many of AWF’s projects as possible while I’m here. I doubt chances to explore, learn, and grow like this come twice in a lifetime.
This blog is from our Conservation Management Trainee series. Our trainees will be providing you with updates as they progress on their journeys with AWF. To follow them on their travels, read their blogs.
Sam came to the AWF Conservation Management Training Program from London. He received a master's degree in conservation science and served as a research and development manager for Frontier —working on wildlife corridors, land-use plans, and large mammals. Sam spent his childhood exploring the woods in England and France, and he continues to pursue any opportunity to have an adventure.
AWF Blogs bring you to the African Heartlands, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.