Vicente Canada Blanch School (1980-1986), University of Westminster (1990-1993), Birkbeck College, London (2001-2003), Imperial College (Silwood Park) (2003-2004), University of Oxford (2005-2009)
BSc (Hons) in Life Science, MSc in Environmental Science, MSc in Forest Protection and Conservation, DPhil (PhD) – Tropical Forest Ecology.
Demonstrating & tutoring undergraduates (University of Oxford), Senior Forest Biodiversity Research Co-ordinator (Operation Wallacea), Field Project Manager (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust), Timber Trade Programme Officer (TRAFFIC Europe)
Director of Communications and Fundraising
Bat Conservation Trust
Favourite thing to do in my job Exploring new and sometimes remote places while trying to find out more about species that we are trying to conserve.
Conservation biologist and ecologist with a passion to make the world a better place for all
I was born and raised in London although both my parents are from the north-western part of Spain known as Galicia. I enjoy cities almost as much as I like being in forests mainly because I love being in places rich in diversity and life. My friends come from all sorts of backgrounds and I really enjoy spending time with them doing all sorts of things – night in chatting through to a visit to a place we have not been too before. I spend time with my family every weekend. My mum has been a real inspiration to me and I have definitely caught my love of plants from her – my office at work looks like a bit of a jungle!
I’m a bit of a sci-fi fan although to be honest enjoy reading and watching films of all sorts. My ideal evening out involves going to the theater, I particularly enjoy seeing different types of dance – from break dancing through to ballet and everything in between.
I don’t really have that much spare time but I give some of that to volunteering as a trustee for Vauxhall City Farm which is in the area I live. I love the work they do with kids in showing them what happens in a farm.
Studying animals with the aim of protecting them and educating people as to why we need nature
I have done all sort of work as a biologist. I started by studying butterflies and looking at how cutting down forest affects them. I then went on to study dung beetles in the same forest but worked along a large number of scientists studying all sorts of other wonderful living things like trees, snakes, frogs, birds and mammals. After that, I moved on to study two species of mammals that are only found on the island of Hispaniola (made up of two countries: Dominican Republic and Haiti) – the species are: Solenodon and Hutia. The solenodon in particular is famous because its one of the few mammals that has a venomous bite. After spending three years studying and helping to protect these amazing animals, I returned to the UK and took up a post helping to fight wildlife trafficking and particularly trade in illegal timber. None of the work I have done would have been possible without the help of some amazing people which included fellow scientists as well as local people with amazing knowledge of nature.
My Typical Day
There really is no such thing for me
Thats the wonderful thing about working in conservation – one day you are out studying animals in the forest, another day you are trying to understand what you recorded/photographed/spotted and then you find yourself sharing what you have found with others. A lot of the work we do is like detective work – its amazing how much we still dont know about wildlife.
About once every couple of months I also volunteer at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History where I study dung beetles collected from cloud forests in Central America. Insects are really remarkable creatures and massively undervalued – undervalued creatures seems to be a repeating theme with me.
In my current job most of my days are about sharing scientific results with others or helping to raise money to get work off the ground. One moment I could be speaking or emailing a journalist to explain the findings from some of our research and then contacting someone who wants to donate towards bat conservation.
I am incredibly lucky because I really enjoy all of my work.
What I'd do with the money
Teach more kids about bat detecting
I’d like to support the efforts of the National Bat Monitoring Programme. They want to teach more kids how to use a bat detector. The money would really help to promote the sunset/sunrise surveys and contribute towards developing a bat detector designed for kids.
Bat detectors are the only way that you can identify bats as they fly about in the wild. The bat detector converts the sounds that bats make as they echo-locate into a sound we can hear.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Adventurous, friendly and optimistic
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I appeared in a David Attenborough programme
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My mum and my grandad
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Lets just say I was quite disruptive in Latin classes although Latin proved to be really useful later in life
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I’d like to think I would have been an artist but I am terrible at art
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This changes a lot but Years and Years are my current favourite
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
How do I choose? IF I had to choose…whale watching in Dominican Republic
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Good health, a house in the countryside and a pet dog
Tell us a joke.
What do you call an bat with a carrot in each ear? Anything you want as he can’t hear you!
My first proper expedition was to Madagascar where I learnt how to organise an expedition and how to study wildlife in forests. I saw lots of amazing animals during this trip including lemurs (which are only found in Madagascar). In this photo I’m holding a tiny chameleon
I’ve always made a point of giving talks in the villages where I have worked. I love sharing the excitement and adventure of expeditions as well as sharing my knowledge of animals with people
One of the first bits of research I did was to study butterflies in Honduras (Central America). This colourful butterfly is known as an owl wing because on the other side of the wing it has markings that look like owls eyes.
I’ve been really lucky to have some amazing experiences while doing science. In this photo we had set up a satellite link to the internet. The people who lived in the village had never experienced the internet before!
Expeditions are fun but they are also lots of hard work. In Dominican Republic (in the Caribbean) I regularly trekked for six hours and more, often through very wet and muddy places. I’m taking a much needed break in this photo although as you will see I am covered in mud!
One of the ways we study animals is to use camera traps that are able to film during the day and night. In this photo I’m showing a school class how these cameras work. The kids then set them up in the playground and pretended to be animals in front of it so they could see the video afterwards.
I did an expedition to Cuba a few years ago to study some of the very special animals that live there. While passing through a village someone introduced me to their pet Hutia (a bit like a giant Hamster). It was a real privilege to meet this amazing animal that most people dont know
A lot of the work I do now involves talking to people about bats and why they are so important. I’m often dressed up as a bat to do this although in this photo I’m only wearing bat wings
Speaking up for bats is not always easy, a lot of people are scared of them but that’s because they don’t know much about them. They are wonderful creatures but very misunderstood. Once they know more about them most people realise just how important they are especially since most of them eat insects
Just a few weeks ago I did something completely different…Myself and a friend did a bat themed comedy show at the Grant Museum as part of British Science Week