International Women’s Day: Paola Perez, Freshwater Futures Trainee

8th March 2023

On International Women’s Day, Freshwater Futures Trainee Paola Perez reflects on the importance of diversity in conservation and what drives her in her career.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I enjoy so many things that is difficult to choose just one. But if I had to, I’d say it’s that my job contributes to making a difference in nature conservation – even if it’s a small one. Being able to help with a direct positive impact on biodiversity is priceless.

What inspired you to pursue your current career?

I’ve always loved being outdoors, and was shocked and saddened when I first realised how degraded the natural environment around me was. After I finished high school, I knew that nature conservation would be the career path that would make me happiest. And I was right.

Woman holding seedling with plant pot

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is ‘Embrace Equity’. Why is this important in conservation?

There is no doubt about its importance! The current environmental crisis is pressing and complex, and we’ll never achieve the urgent solutions required without a diverse array of voices and experiences.

The biodiversity and climate breakdown we are experiencing disproportionately affects certain groups. These include women, low-income households, indigenous communities and many others. That means it’s vital that people from these groups have a prominent seat at the tables where decisions are taken and changes happen – in policy, research, media and education.

Woman scything in a field

What advice would you give to a woman who is just starting out in a similar role to yours?

There is a lot to improve in the still largely male-dominated sector that is nature conservation. Some practical things may seem small but can be a barrier for women. For example, long days out on fieldwork are amazing, but not having access to toilets can sometimes be difficult. Some of the equipment we use still relies entirely on male sizing – just look at waders or chainsaw PPE.

Nevertheless, if conservation is your passion…we need you! Join us and help to change things from the inside, while making a positive impact on wildlife conservation.

Woman crouching by pond, holding water testing equipment

What drives you in your role?

Helping the conservation of species and habitats on the brink of extinction is my main motor. It’s impossible not to love Mondays when your job consists on speaking up for those otherwise voiceless species and habitats.

Woman holding chainsaw

Paola Perez joined Freshwater Habitats Trust in February 2022 as a Freshwater Futures trainee. As part of the GRCF-funded Building Oxfordshire’s Freshwater Network project, Paola has helped to create new wetland mosaic habitats for the benefit of people and wildlife at several Oxfordshire locations. Paola is also working on the Oxfordshire Fens Project, working with landowners, experts and the community to ensure the long-term survival of these threatened habitats. She will start her new role as Freshwater Habitats Trust Fen Conservation Officer in April 2023.