International Womens Day (IWD) is 8 March 2024. IWD seeks to celebrate women's achievement, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity. At ARC, we want to uplift our staff and make sure their voices are heard. 

Click on the pictures to hear personal stories from some of ARC's members of staff this International Women's Day. 

DR RACHAEL COOPER-BOHANNON: Scotland Projects Coordinator

My conservation journey began as far back as I can remember, fuelled by my Dad’s passion for wildlife. I was born in Zambia but we moved to South Africa and we lived close to a fantastic National Park called Ithala. We’d sometimes stay overnight sitting around a camp fire and getting a chance to wade into the river. After moving to the UK, I went on to do a Zoology degree and volunteered for the Avon Wildlife Trust and a wildlife rescue centre. I then went to work as an ecological consultant and got an opportunity to make a difference helping to shape development and mitigation plans. I undertook a PhD at the University of Stirling (Scotland) with fieldwork across southern Africa. To-date I’ve been lucky to have worked in England, Wales, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and of course Scotland! After living in Malawi for four years after my PhD, I worked for the Bat Conservation Trust and RSPB Scotland on the development year of Species on the Edge and now work for ARC as the Scotland Coordinator.

My role is split across two projects, Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) and Species on the Edge (SotE). For my SSAAR role, I do policy and advocacy work, fundraising, coordinate training, mapping, work with partners on a National Adder Survey, promote ARC’s monitoring programmes, outreach and support EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) activities in Scotland. For SotE, I work closely with our Project Officer based in Solway and sit on the Steering Group and Monitoring and Evaluation subgroup for SotE. I particularly enjoy partnership working, it is great to be inspired by passionate conservationists, together we can make a bigger impact on conservation overall in Scotland. I am passionate about widening participation, and love that within my role in Scotland we are always looking for ways to make conservation more accessible for everyone to get involved. It’s fantastic talking to people about amphibians and reptiles and helping to change attitudes to our awesome herps!

One of my biggest inspirations getting into ecology was my undergraduate lecturer, Professor Jane Memmott from the University of Bristol. She was an absolute inspiration to everyone she taught! I still remember telling my partner she was like a combination of Indiana Jones and Diane Fossey – with her passion and sense of adventure. My PhD supervisor, Professor Kirsty Park, had a huge impact on my career supporting and guiding me through at very hard PhD at times. Kirsty always had an open door policy and was there to chat things through and offer support, but when it got really tough she’d take you for a coffee and cake!!

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JANET ULLMAN: SSAAR Education Officer

It all started with a need to save the world after becoming one of those wild kids who roamed around bare foot finding everything natural utterly fascinating. Sadly, the ones ruling the world seemed to have absolutely no appreciation for it. I had this great biology teacher who directed me towards the ecology sector. That lead to a degree and a Masters, but it was my experience as a ranger that made me realise if you can awaken one persons’ sense of wonder, that could lead to a real impact.

If ARC doesn’t have a presence in Scotland, it will have no relevance in a nation that has its own laws, education and strong identity. For the sake of everything we conserve, making sure we have a presence in Scotland is what we work for. Education about wildlife is essential. My favourite part of my role is sharing the joy of it all with everyone.

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KIM BOUGHEY: Membership & Communications Officer

I have always loved nature and wildlife, and because of this I chose to study Conservation Biology at Bournemouth University as an undergraduate. I then followed this with a Masters in Ecological and Environmental Science at Southampton University. During a long and difficult job search, made harder by my lack of work experience, I started volunteering with ARC as a habitat management volunteer and then started helping out in the office too. This office volunteering included helping with administration of the then ARC Friends scheme, updating the website and creating most of ARC’s first social media accounts. In 2012 I joined ARC as the Trust’s first Communications Officer. Although I hadn’t initially intended to work in communications, volunteering with ARC showed me this is an area I am passionate about and I’m very happy to be working for a charity that means a lot to me. As a visually impaired person, working for a supportive and inclusive organisation has been invaluable.

My role involves a wide variety of things. I oversee the administration and development of the ARC Members scheme; sending out welcome packs and members magazines and updating our database. I also lead on the Trusts digital communications; the ARC website, social media, eNews etc. and assist with the organisation and promotion of ARC’s conferences and events. I am also involved with internal communications; administrating our staff intranet and advising on branding. I really enjoy that my role varies day-to-day. Our team covers a lot of different areas within ARC and we are always working on something new. I love that it’s my job to tell the world about the UK’s amazing amphibians and reptiles and the work ARC does to protect them. We develop campaigns which we hope will encourage everyone to value, and want to protect, our native frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards as much as we do.

She wasn’t an ecologist but my Nan had a huge influence on me and always encouraged me to love the outdoors and nature. She is who inspired me to work in the environmental sector in the first place. The other person who inspired me greatly was my lecturer and supervisor during my undergraduate degree. Prof. Anita Diaz has an infectious enthusiasm for ecology and the natural world and her unwavering support was a huge help to me.

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ANGELA REYNOLDS: Admin Officer & ARC Eye Editor

I didn’t study ecology, I have a BSc in Professional Broadcasting from the University of Salford, but I always did want to work with wildlife in some capacity. I grew up in rural Norfolk and was one of those children who spent all of my time outside, climbing trees, watching birds and small mammals and playing with bugs, frogs and newts in the fields and farmland and on the Norfolk Broads. I was lucky enough to go to a rural primary school where nature and the environment formed a significant part of our education, and coupled with my countryside childhood playground, it sparked a lifelong appreciation.

My Mum was a sucker for rescuing wildlife so there were often opportunities to get up close to some stunning creatures like kestrels and hedgehogs. I hold my Mum at least partly responsible for my urge to want to save and protect things, but she claims that from the moment I could walk I wanted to be around animals and nature and help everything, ALL the time! Even now, I am studying wildlife rescue, first aid and rehabilitation in my spare time.

I sort of fell in to working at ARC (which was then called The Herpetological Conservation Trust) when I started temping between jobs sixteen years ago. I eventually joined the payroll and I’m still here! The Trust was much smaller then, consisting of sixteen staff members, and I was one of only three women. It seemed to me, as a newbie in this particular world, that herpetologists and enthusiasts in the UK were mostly older white British males. I’m happy to say that this is no longer the case and the world of herpetology is steadily becoming a lot more diverse. Joining a small NGO has meant I have honed many skills from answering email and phone enquiries about wildlife, building working relationships with other organisations, organising large conferences, book keeping, payroll, managing office service contracts, drawing up contracts of employment, recruitment and staff inductions, events and editor of the ARC members newsletter to name just a few!

Some might say that it sounds boring being stuck at a desk all day. Sure, it would be great to be outside regularly, but conservation is about more than habitat management and monitoring. It’s also about education, accessibility, working to change negative perspectives on herps and supporting and nurturing staff, which is where I can contribute. Also, working so close to the beach is a definite bonus. On a sunny day I can often be found at lunchtimes watching the wall lizards on the cliffs and eating ice cream!

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ERYN MCDONALD: Reptile Projects Officer

Growing up in Saskatchewan, I had the fortunate experience of having a family that enjoyed spending lots of time outdoors. Living in the prairies gave me plenty of opportunities to experience the beauty of the native wildlife, such as owls, chickadees, moose, bears and beavers, to name a few. These opportunities shaped my passion for the environment and the species within. When I reached university age, I undertook a bachelor’s degree in Animal Bioscience with a focus on domestic animals at the University of Saskatchewan. During my degree, I took a wildlife ecology class that explored the interactions between domestic livestock and wildlife, which inspired me to pursue a career in wildlife. Following this, I completed my master’s degree in Zoo Conservation Biology at the University of Plymouth, intending to achieve a career in the animal conservation sector. To help get a ‘foot in the door’ into the conservation sector, I volunteered part-time with Marwell Zoo as a researcher under their animal behaviourist. After a few years of volunteering and building my skills, I gained my current role at ARC as the Reptile Projects Officer.

As the Reptile Projects Officer, my role can change depending on the projects I am involved with. In the past year, my role has focused on survey and monitoring work to help inform conservation strategies for widespread reptiles at a local scale and assessing the conservation status of our native reptiles and amphibians at national and regional scales. One of my favourite aspects of my roles is that I have the opportunity to collaborate with many of my colleagues. My colleagues have a variety of knowledge and expertise that they are always willing to share to offer a helping hand.

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MANDY CARTWRIGHT: Senior North Wales Officer

My Journey began in 2008 when I started volunteering locally in north Wales which led to being employed in the conservation sector 9 months later. From an early age I was fascinated by amphibians and have many childhood memories of spawn and toad/froglets emerging in my local area. I began working for ARC in 2014 and prior to this had various different roles that were my stepping stones of knowledge an experience before working for the national leading herpetofauna organisation.

My Role at ARC has evolved over the past 10 years. My key output is managing, maintaining and monitoring a suite of nature reserves primarily for the great crested newt and wider amphibian assemblage. I work with fellow colleagues on the reintroduction programme of natterjack toads and sand lizards to north east Wales which has been a success due to many people’s efforts over the past 20 years. I am also a tutor for the Field Studies Council where through ARC I deliver a variety of training courses for people that want a greater understanding of our amphibians or reptiles and to expand their career opportunities within the conservation sector. I enjoy being part of a conservation network that conserves amphibians and reptiles and the vital habitats they depend on in north Wales – where I am from. My role offers me the opportunity to be creative with funding where I can enhance/manage nature reserves to benefit these key species into a thriving future.

I was inspired from a young age by Diane Fossey. I learnt from her work that observing wildlife, behaviour and their habitats in person is a crucially important skill and knowledge to accrue in conserving any species that lives on this earth.

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