Melanie Oxley

Melanie Oxley

PR and Marketing Executive, The Ecology Consultancy

Tell us about your background and your work

I have a background in Earth Sciences, Plant Sciences and Ecology, and then immediately went into campaigning work for not-for-profit organisations, and that’s where I learnt most of the communications skills I now use.

I’m now employed in the commercial sector, working for The Ecology Consultancy which offers ecology services to the construction industry, architects, and engineers, mainly doing surveys for European protected species and carrying out mitigation for any likely damage to these or their habitats.

I handle most all the communications and publicity – website content management, social media, content for trade magazines, which I either write myself or work with one of the ecologists to create case-study based articles. So there’s a lot of writing, which I love, but it does mean that I spend an awful lot of time in front of the computer, which is the downside

Having studied ecology, did you expect to take on a more field-based role?

Originally I did, because I fell in love with ecology when I was only thirteen. I chose to go on wildlife courses when I was younger, so actually I knew the basics of wildlife surveys and a lot of botany before I even went to university.

I did a bit of teaching at Field Centres and although I did think I’d be a field-based ecologist, once I got the bit between my teeth for campaigning, that idea went of the window! So in fact I’ve never been paid as a working ecologist. I’ve always promoted habitats and wildlife and campaigned to save them, and I have helped bring together conservationists to protect larger areas, here and in Europe.

Great Crested Newts

Is it very different working for company rather than a not-for-profit organisation?

Yes, there are some differences working for a company. There are certain constraints over what we can and can’t say about who we’re working for, and there are sensitivities around what the client will allow to become public knowledge.

A lot of the job is explaining to clients the process of properly caring for the environment and particularly European protected species.

The main difference is that the work is very specific: I focus on European protected species and protected habitats. The wider environment is not something I get involved with now, whereas in my previous role I would have done. There’s no campaigning, I have a different focus.

What skills do you need to do your job?

In my role here, I need to be aware of the clients’ needs and what they need to know, and to be able to write for them in an accessible and interesting way.

Development clients are often very worried about European protected species on their site and they imagine having to go through months and months of surveys and spending lots of money; but it doesn’t have to be like that and it quite often isn’t like that.

We try to persuade clients that their site will be all the better if they encourage wildlife and provide for it by creating habitat. A lot of my time is spent showing clients that wildlife isn’t scary!

Any advice for someone trying to get into your line of work?

I think that one of the most important things is listening to others and being able to communicate in good, clear English.

Being passionate about the subject helps, and really wanting others to understand does too. If you’re a young person looking to get into this line of work you need to learn to be friendly and interested, and to be passionate about what you do.

A knowledge of development regulations, as well as a knowledge of wildlife law is essential.

Increasingly IT skills come into play as well. I do a lot of content management for the website, e-newsletters, marketing campaigns, social media work, you name it, I do it! So that’s something you need to be good with too.