EVS Spotlight: Amy Molotoks in Portugal

Background

I first started considering an EVS placement after finishing my Masters degree in September 2014. Unsure of the future and possible career paths I decided to try and gain some experience before my next steps. I therefore successfully completed an internship with the Eden Project and after contacting an environmental organisation I had heard of through family friends, I got offered a place at A Rocha Portugal for a year.

The organisation / My role

The organisation is part of an international family of conservation NGO’s with the primary aim of researching local wildlife in order to further protect nature and promote its conservation. This was the perfect opportunity as it allowed me to exercise skills I had attained through my degrees (‘Environmental Science’ and ‘Conservation and Biodiversity’)as well as learning new ones and using different software. My role in the organisation was a research assistant to the scientific director which involved many different tasks. These included assisting their PhD fieldwork, database entry, proof reading documents for publication (as I was the native English speaker) and project management of an ongoing wildlife monitoring programme. There were however also lots of other exciting opportunities alongside the standard weekly activities including short term research expeditions and seasonal wildlife monitoring so no week was ever the same!

Not only did I have a role in a professional capacity but also on a community level. The research centre was both the home and work place of the directors and their family, a team of permanent staff and a range of short and long term volunteers. We also had frequent visitors staying with us as either  friends of the family or visitors on bird watching holidays. Living at the research centre therefore also consisted of more domestic roles including feeding the three dogs, looking after the chickens and of course helping with food preparation and washing up. Working and living in a community proved challenging at times however has proved to be a particularly rewarding experience. Furthermore, A Rocha Portugal is a Christian organisation, so I received tremendous support in terms of my faith as well as personally and professionally. If that wasn’t enough, I also had the opportunity to learn Portuguese!

Placement Outcomes

One of the main purposes this EVS placement served was to both gain experience for the next steps in my career as well as a time of reflection for what these should be. I enjoyed the research element of my placement so much I decided to apply for PhD’s whilst here in Portugal. Thus one of the main outcomes of my time here securing a doctorate and receiving a grant to study at the University of Aberdeen, with all my interviews being conducted over skype! This PhD will look at how we can face the global challenge of providing food security whilst also protecting nature, therefore the skills I have attained during my placement will be invaluable, in particular working with large databases and programs such as ArcGIS. Other outcomes include a report on the moth monitoring programme I conducted as well as publication within A Rocha of my own research project on otter populations in the Natura 2000 site surrounding the centre.

I have had an incredible 9 months at A Rocha and would highly recommend the experience to others considering taking some time to gain experience in the areas of nature conservation and environmental education. The dedication and commitment of the team at A Rocha has been an inspiration to say the least and I have grown just as much as a person as I have in terms of professional development. I’ve made some invaluable friends and I’m sure I will be back to visit at some point in the future!

Pictures: 

Far right - The A Rocha Portugal field research centre with one of the three dogs (Linda) in the foreground 

Middle - Me holding one of the 15 chicks I was responsible for

Bottom left - Early morning moth trapping at the Eastern Marsh site for the ongoing moth monitoring programme

Bottom right - Water quality fieldwork for individual research project on local otter populations

Published September 2015.

I have learnt so much during my EVS experience, both new skills which will enhance my career and boost my employability as well as developing on a more personal level. This includes gaining in confidence and improving my communication skills with people both from my country and from others. Furthermore my EVS experience has helped me to gain a PhD in a similar area to my host organisation, therefore has had a huge impact on my future!
Amy Molotoks, EVS Volunteer at A Rocha, Pr