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Careers Series – Consultant Ecologist (New Zealand)

ecology consultant new zealand

In the third article of Inside Ecology’s Careers Series, Marc Choromanski talks about his role as a consultant Ecologist for Ecology New Zealand Ltd

Short-tailed bats in a communal tree roost (Photo credit ©Jake Osborne / Wikimedia Commons)

How did you get to where you are today?
That’s a big question… I guess I put it down to a couple of aspects. University definitely played an important role in laying the theoretical foundations of ecology for me. I found getting myself into the field and throwing myself at as many volunteer opportunities as I could, really gave me the experience that allowed me to get to where I am today. Having a few more letters after your name doesn’t really help if you can’t identify your basic plant species or identify a bird from its song call. Another really important thing that volunteering did for me was allow me to network and meet people within the NZ ecology industry (which isn’t that big). Knowing people really helps when it comes to getting free technical support, sharing research and finding out about new opportunities. The last aspect that got me to where I am today really came down to a bit of luck and timing.

What does your job comprise?
I’m currently a Terrestrial Ecologist at a small private ecology consultancy in Auckland New Zealand (Ecology New Zealand Ltd). Most of my work load involves undertaking Assessments of Ecological Effects for a range of projects ranging from small scale residential developments to large scale roading projects of national significance. This mainly involves undertaking flora and fauna surveys, assessing impacts, providing avoidance/mitigation/remediation recommendations and implementing fauna relocation’s. In addition to the technical ecological aspects, business development, client liaison, and staff management are another large part of my role.

Yellow-eyed penguins (Photo credit ©Wikimedia Commons)

Are there any ‘must-have’ qualifications and/or experience?
Within the NZ ecology industry, a Masters degree is becoming industry standard with more and more job adverts requiring it. However, a Postgrad Diploma and strong field experience, especially in a specialised field, can never go unnoticed (as in my case).

What are the pro’s?
I love that my job has great balance between field and office work. Being involved in a project from the preliminary field investigation stages, making your recommendations, and finally being able to implement these recommendations and create positive environmental outcomes is really a great feeling. Also, being a bit of a fauna nerd, I spend a lot of my spare time looking for and photographing fauna, so being paid to do it during the week is still something I’m trying to get my head around.

What are the cons?
Clients… Its not all about the flora and fauna, being a consultant. Demanding and sometimes dodgy clients are the bane of a consultants’ life. Though they can be draining, its always the most difficult clients that are the most appreciative when you are able to find a balance between their vision and environmental outcomes.

One con, however, that can’t go unmentioned are time-sheets… These are a constant pain to do when you just want to leave the office for your weekend.

Chevron skink (Photo credit ©New Zealand Department of Conservation / Wikimedia Commons)

What advice would you give to someone setting out on a similar career path?
If you are planning to get into the consulting field, as boring as it may sound, have a read through some of your local environmental legislation. It’s a little bit boring at first, but it will give you some important context into the framework you will be working in.

Get into the field! I cannot stress it enough. If there is anything you want to do to separate yourself from the class full of people graduating with you, make it field experience!

Don’t be shy to reach out to lecturers, PhD students, local community groups, or consultancies asking to volunteer for them. The worst that can happen is that they say no or don’t get back to you…But, they now have you on record and given a bit of luck and timing you may just be what they are looking for. Trust me… I got contacted a year later and ended up taking a job!

About the Author: Marc Choromanski is a consultant Ecologist at Ecology New Zealand Ltd. He has strong terrestrial ecology and specialist fauna expertise. He is a recognised herpetologist by the Department of Conservation (DOC), holding Wildlife Act permits to survey lizards in the Auckland Region and authorities to keep native lizards in captivity. He is also a recognised bat ecologist under DOC’s bat competency framework with experience surveying, trapping and handling bats. He has worked on a wide range of projects for the urban development, roading, mining, and local government sectors.