International Day of Women and Girls in Science- Francesca Dunn, Project Manager

11th February 2024

Francesca joined Freshwater Habitats Trust Trust in 2013 to help with the development of the PondNet survey project. As this got absorbed into the People, Ponds and Water project Francesca then acted as the Southern Project officer for this project covering an area extending from Cornwall to Kent!

Francesca has worked in the Communications team and on a number of other projects.

Can you describe your journey into a career in the science/environmental sector? 

I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world – especially frogs! As a child, I collected toy frogs (I have hundreds!). Despite this love of nature, a career in conservation never really occurred to me as an option when I was younger. After I graduated from university (with a degree in Geography), I worked in an office for a while and generally felt a bit lost. Eventually I saved some money up and flew to Peru, where I spent three months doing voluntary conservation work on a project in the Amazon Rainforest. It was amazing (so many frogs!). I didn’t want to come home – although I did really want a cup of tea and a cherry bakewell tart! After that, I decided to do a Masters degree in conservation, and that led me to Freshwater Habitats Trust.  

Common Frog

- Common Frog

What do you enjoy most about your role? 

Part of my role involves coordinating volunteers and I love connecting with different people. I think it’s wonderful that so many people offer up their free time to help wildlife.  

 One of the things I really enjoy about working at Freshwater Habitats Trust is listening to other members of staff talking about the projects they’re working on and the practical work being done to benefit freshwater wildlife. It’s great to feel like you’re part of an organisation that’s really making a difference. 

I have two children under five, so for me the flexibility offered to enable me to fit my role around childcare is very important.

 I also love any day when I’m outside in nature, that’s a real job perk!  

Francesca Dunn sampling eDNA

- Francesca Dunn sampling eDNA

Are there any female scientists (or women working in any science-related roles) who inspire you? 

I really love Professor Hannah Fry. She is mathematician, author and science presenter. Hannah Fry has done a number of fascinating documentaries and podcasts (I recommend searching BBC iPlayer!). She has a wonderful ability to communicate scientific ideas to wider audiences, which I think is really important.  

All the women who work at Freshwater Habitats Trust constantly inspire me. 


Team photo of Freshwater Habitats Trust staff

- Team photo of Freshwater Habitats Trust staff

What does your role at Freshwater Habitats Trust now involve? 

I am currently working on a project called the Urban Pond Count. Ponds are a vital habitat and it is important for us to know if we are gaining or losing ponds in this country. To help us find out, we are asking volunteers to visit representative 1km square areas across England and count the number of ponds that they find. The results of this survey will enable us to estimate the number of ponds in England so we can work towards their future protection.  

This summer we will also be asking volunteers to complete a Priority Pond Assessment survey (PASS) at the ponds. The PASS survey involves collecting habitat data which enable us to identify more priority ponds (these are ponds that have a particularly high conservation value). 

What’s great about the Urban Pond Count and PASS is that they don’t require any specific expertise, so anyone can get involved. All the training materials are available online and I’m available to support our volunteers.  

Child pond dipping