Meet the Team: Project Administrator for People Ponds and Water

24th April 2015

Here’s the third in our series of posts where you can meet the Freshwater Habitats Trust team.  Meet one of our newest arrivals, Thea!

December 2014 Scotland - An Teallach ridge in backgroundTell me your name…

Thea Powell

And your job title?

Project Administrator for People, Ponds and Water

What does that involve?

I’m supporting four new regional officers that are based in northern England, central England, southern England and Wales, and the National Coordinator based with me in the Oxford office.  The project is made up of PondNet, Flagship Ponds, and Clean Water for Wildlife. Together, these projects are aiming to engage people, make them more aware and more involved in pond wildlife and water quality issues. Hopefully, this involvement will make a real difference to the protection of freshwater habitats.

Day to day, I answer emails and communicate to support the team, developing new material (as it’s a new project and it’s a big one!), and making sure everyone I am in touch with has the information they need to get involved in the project. I’m also creating new pages on our website, full of info for anyone interested in the project.

Close to the source of the Seven, WalesWhat’s so important about that?

People, Ponds and Water is the first national volunteer recording scheme for pond wildlife and water quality in England and Wales and the first time lots of people across the country have the opportunity to get involved in such a project. It gives people an opportunity to ‘adopt a pond for survey’, and learn new skills about recording trends in pond quality and uncommon plants and animals in a systematic way. We want people to feel more connected to the watery habitats around them and gain understanding about their value for wildlife. They can also learn about the pressures from human lifestyles that reduce water quality. We already have individual volunteers and community groups who have shown their support for the project and – more importantly – how much they care about their wider freshwater environment.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I like working with like-minded people – my colleagues, volunteers and partner organisations – and being able to talk to people about environmental topics. I find it really rewarding to share information with people.

And least favourite?

This is the very beginning of the project, so a lot has to start from scratch. There is a lot of work writing, formatting, editing, copy and pasting, and it’s just not as fun as sharing information and making people smile about wildlife.

hiking up scarfell pike 11.04.15Why do you do it?  What do you get out of it, and what keeps you going through the hard days?

I have always worked in conservation, wanting to learn more about habitats, and if that involves teaching others about it, so much the better.  I value the natural environment, so roles like this help others to understand that value. I’ve found it helps them find a connection with the nature around them.  If I am going to choose to spend time in an office, it has to be to support nature – I really enjoy the progress that can be made!

And (to top it all off) there is a good group of fun people to work with, all with the same cause.

What does freshwater wildlife mean to you?

I think freshwater habitats are special. People can see freshwater every day and not actually see what is there. Freshwater is commonplace and underappreciated, but it’s so accessible, on our doorstep.  We just need to know how to look. I get excited by helping people realise what species and ecology are so close to them – everyone can relate to what you are saying, about the pond or stream down the road. It’s the opposite of trying to see tigers in a faraway country. Anyone can join in the ‘looking and learning’ without any cost to them, and without needing too much time. Freshwater is rewarding to investigate as there is always something there – and usually a lot more than you thought!

cooling down in a Bornean forest canalWhat’s your favourite freshwater habitat?

It has to be a bog, because I am always in them. And they are very comfortable to sit on, if you don’t mind being wet.  I’m a hiker so I spend a lot of time in upland and moorland landscapes – I love getting outside (in all weathers!) and seeing how stunning and exciting the UK outdoors is. Weekends become trips of a lifetime and they don’t break the bank (and I enjoy sitting in my office more if I need a rest after my weekend!).

What got you interested in freshwater habitats?

I’ve always loved being outside and with animals, and this led to both my hiking, and ecological studies.  I like examples of ecology where you can see a lot in a small space (many processes, species, clever adaptations, etc).  Freshwater habitats are a great example of small places rich in biodiversity.

 (Pictured : An Teallach ridge (Scotland) in background , The River Severn (taken by Thea), Thea on the way up Scafell Pike, Cooling down in a Bornean man made canal.)


The People, Ponds and Water project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.