I have always been intrigued by ecology: how do ecosystems work, how do species interact, how can you read the landscape by just looking at flora and fauna?
MFN was a good choice for me. It gave me the opportunity to study those subjects! During my thesis I studied the factors determining the spatial distribution of different herbivores in South Africa: the trade-off between food availability and predation risks. My internship was about finding the most effective habitat management for conservation of the large copper butterfly in The Netherlands, an endangered endemic subspecies.
After graduation it was not easy to find a job. The Dutch politics were in a difficult state when it came to nature conservation. Luckily I got the opportunity to work for an IT & Consultancy company. It was a good solution to gain some work experience. Amongst others, we did a project for multiple ecological consultancy agencies. I also managed to get some tasks that were not related to IT. For example, I monitored protected bird species in a residential area, where a large renovation project was about to start.
By this time I had tried some research and I tried part of the type of work that ecological consultancy agencies do. I learned that it was important for me to have variation in my work. But I also realized that I actually wanted to work on real nature conservation, which is for me a very important thing in a densely populated country such as The Netherlands.
So when I got the opportunity to start working for Natuurmonumenten, a Dutch nature management organisation, I switched. Together with my colleagues I am now responsible for the protection and nature quality of unique dune terrains, some forest patches, swamps, a bog, etc.
So what do I do? I make the monitoring plan for our region. I determine the necessary things to have to be measured and monitored, the frequency and methods which we use, and which data we need to be able to make good analyses. I have got a motivated group of about 50 volunteers, each with their own specialization. We gather a lot of information on flora, fauna and abiotics. I am using the data to detect changes in nature quality, for evaluating the nature management and for writing long term management plans.
Part of my job is the preparation of large dune restoration projects from an ecological perspective. We are working on a LIFE project called “Dutch Dune Revival”, a nature restoration programme funded by the European Union, as well as on local government restoration projects related to nitrogen deposition. Dutch dune areas lost their essential sand-, salt- and water dynamics due to robust dikes, rabbit diseases which made the rabbit populations almost go extinct, and due to nitrogen deposition caused by industry and traffic. As a consequence, valuable habitat types are disappearing rapidly. My job is to restore those valuable habitats, like grey dunes, white dunes, humid dune slacks, etc. Large-scale projects which need a detailed preparation and a firm ecological argumentation.