Alumnus' Journey to Conservation
My journey into conservation was far less straight-forward than I would’ve expected.
I was at first passionate about the biology and hard science behind studying biodiversity. But with increasing time spent in the field, it quickly became clear to me that I was also in love with the way that nature made me feel. This awareness, of course, made me want to protect and preserve it. Travelling to some of the most biodiverse areas of the region only affirmed these feelings and allowed me to witness the problems with protecting these spaces – issues related to power, livelihoods and culture. These were a far cry from the black-and-white facts I’d learned in the classroom and read in books. Reality was far more complex than I had conceived and changing this would require a different kind of work.
This realisation was followed by my first forays into activism. In my second year in college a friend and I took over an advocacy group that was focused on providing a voice for marginalised communities. The experience gave me the opportunity to attempt to catalyse change in the real-world and become familiar with the structures and pitfalls in place that prevent many of the changes we were pushing for from taking root.
Following graduation, I worked in number of biodiversity related fields, that married my interests in the environment with human-focused issues – including both consulting and in conservation. Working with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP) introduced me broadly to the field of conservation in the region and the priorities, gaps and opportunities present in this landscape. It made me aware of ways in which my skillset could be uniquely suited to address some gaps – for instance bridging advocacy and ecological theory – and helped me narrow the scope of how I wanted to influence the field moving forward.
This led to application for a PhD position at NUS, where I will be studying the regional wildlife trade, to really work on the interface between the biological and human aspects of conservation. Right now, I couldn’t be happier. I’m chasing after something I’m crazily passionate about and championing a cause I believe in – and I can’t imagine doing anything else.