Biodiversity Conservation Planner – Pamela Zevit, City of Surrey
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to this profession?
A: I am a Registered Professional Biologist, with a particular focus on conservation biology, sort of a ‘buffet’ applied biology discipline that looks at the best approaches for protecting biological diversity, rare and common species, and how our (human) species’ needs and actions all fit together. I was always a bit if a biology/nature nerd from childhood (and proud of that!) but I did not pursue the biological sciences outright after high school. It wasn’t until after I finished university and was out in the workforce that I realized I had a passionate interest in what was happening to our biosphere. By then I had moved to BC and looked at what post-secondary programs could help me transition into an environmental science path. I ended up going to BCIT taking the 2-year Fish and Wildlife Program. After I graduated, I worked for the Province of BC as a Conservation Planner, then a number of years for a conservation non-profit working on species at risk. I started in my present role as Surrey’s Biodiversity Conservation Planner in March 2019.
Q: What does a day in your life on the job look like?
A: The Environmental Planner classification in Surrey Parks covers very diverse activities. While I call the Urban Forestry section home, my position collaborates and liaises across city departments
The core focus of the position is to implement and deliver on the goals and objectives of the City’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. On any given day I may be involved in a number of tasks and activities including:
- Investigating the diversity of plant and animal species and ecological conditions across the City
- Overseeing our evolving citizen science program to engage the community to help us understand how well biodiversity is doing in the City
- Providing expertise and guidance on land use planning, environmental assessments, and policy development.
- Assisting in the development of habitat restoration or enhancement plans.
- Engaging with residents, business and industry interests on biodiversity conservation issues and actions.
Q: What is your favorite aspect about your job?
A: Working on collaborative actions that enhance our ability and understanding on how to conserve the natural world, then seeing how that contributes to society taking a greater interest in and caring for our natural capital.
Q: What are the reasons people would work in this field?
A: I think most biology professionals do what we do because we want to make a difference in how our species values and interacts with the natural world. The position offers a range of opportunities to apply skills and expertise in conservation, environmental monitoring and understand and contribute to the use of conservation science principles in decision making and land use planning.
Q: What would you say the most difficult thing about your job is?
A: Knowing that budgets are limited and that many decisions may ultimately be made at a higher level, issues which are often beyond your control.
Q: What are good traits or skills that someone should have when considering this career?
A: Ultimately this position is all about working with people (human beings). You need to have good empathy and communication skills and be able to understand a range of world views and value systems around nature. That is only part of the equation, you need to be very organized and stay current in the science, regulations and policies, as well as the professional obligations that define you as a biology professional.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in entering this role?
A: Take the time to gain experience in conservation – and working with people. Know that this sort of position is not static, it needs to evolve just like the science it is based on. You are going to be dealing with a diversity of (sometimes opposing) viewpoints and unexpected changes and differing priorities at higher levels that will affect what you are working on. You need to be flexible and adaptive and keep an open, and informed mind.