Articles Features & Opinion

A month in the life: Convenor for CIEEM South East

In this article, we hear an account by Craig Llewellyn regarding the activities undertaken in the role of, Convenor of CIEEM’s South East England Geographic Section, over the period of one month. It provides an insight into how the Section organises events, such as workshops; engages with students and early careers members; promotes professional standards; feeds into national consultations; and, provides a means of representing the views of members at a local level…

The Geographic Sections of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) provide opportunities for members to share knowledge, meet like-minded people and learn more about the science and practice of our profession.

The South East Geographic Section seeks to provide members with a positive experience, through learning, engagement and knowledge sharing, including:

  • engagement opportunities for students at all levels;
  • opportunities for members to engage in networking, knowledge sharing and socializing;
  • engagement in new policy activities where relevant to the Section;
  • a forum to express opinions on issues of special concern in the South East;
  • external representation at a variety of events with different stakeholders;
  • connection with other environmental professional bodies through joint events or knowledge sharing;
  • support for members in the organisation and running of activities in their locality; and
  • increasing and diversifying membership in the South East.
South East Invasive Species Workshop, 2018. Credit: Craig Llewellyn

Week 1
Monday morning, there is a busy work week ahead; I’ve just had an email from one of our Committee members to say that they are in contact with senior planners at South Downs National Park. The Park is forming a new local plan, and we have the opportunity to collaborate and organise a talk for CIEEM members to discuss their new policies, including promoting a landscape-led approach and securing Ecosystems Services and Biodiversity Net Gain. This type of collaboration between local planning authorities and South East CIEEM is common, and vital, so that members can see that CIEEM, through our Committee, is extending its reach as far as possible with other organisations, and most importantly, gives members the opportunity to input to the development of new policies that are directly relevant to them and our profession as a whole.

This relationship between the Institute and a local planning authority is a ‘win-win’, with valuable feedback from members going to planners, and ecologists and environmental managers getting a preliminary insight into what direction local authorities are developing policies in their area.

On Thursday I attend Reigate Grammar School, and we put up a stand for the South East region. The age group is 14–16 year olds; however, it was a good opportunity to talk to them on what careers are available in ecology and environmental management, and gain an insight as to what direction they expect to go in life. It’s amazing that even at this stage, some have a good idea of where they want to go. It’s really inspiring and fills me with hope for the next generation of environmentalists.

Oak Processionary Moth Workshop, 2019. Credit: Craig Llewellyn

Week 2
It’s Wednesday, and today is my first CIEEM Advisory Forum meeting; these only occur twice a year, but are a good opportunity for me as Convenor, to bring views, topics and issues relevant to the region for discussion at the meeting, which is attended by the CEO, President, and Advisory Forum members, including all other Convenors around the UK and Ireland.

Some of the topics of discussion included likely changes to the CIEEM Competency Framework, and how we can fit Biodiversity Net Gain and UK Habitat Classification into current practices. We talked about the new Registered Practices scheme, and how we can help members understand its purpose and ensure it is a fair system for all members.

We also discussed how we can engage more with members at different stages of their career, and how we can aim to commission research and/or gather evidence on areas of professional practice to benefit our members, such as informing them of updates and new technical guidance, influence policy and support members in the workplace.

It was exciting to be a part of an important link between members and their Institute and vice versa. It gives you a sense of fulfilment that you’re doing your bit, and hopefully influencing positive changes to the Institute along the way.

Week 3
Over the weekend, the Government has announced a consultation on Biodiversity Net Gain including whether to make it mandatory. It’s a national consultation, and has gathered a lot of interest from all parties, on how we can implement net gain and provide a standardised approach that can be used not just by ecologists, but adopted by all environmental professionals through the planning process.

Emailing round the Committee, we decide to organise a get-together to discuss the consultation, using our expertise to provide a response that will feed into the CIEEM Policy Team’s own national response to the consultation. We meet at the London Borough of Southwark, and have a good discussion on both the benefits and drawbacks of Biodiversity Net Gain. We spend time going through the consultation questions using the wealth of experience on the Committee, ranging from consultancy, local planning authority, academia and NGO backgrounds. We formulate a response which was well received by the CIEEM Policy Team, with positive feedback. It was a good team building exercise to learn how to respond to such consultations in the future. 

Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park, 2019. Credit: Craig Llewellyn

Week 4
It’s Thursday, and we are off to the University of Reading to give a presentation to their MSc students. As a Committee we have a good list of contacts within universities, and pride ourselves on creating and responding to opportunities to give presentations to students and forming relationships with academia. In this instance, our talk informs students of what CIEEM is about, career opportunities, and the online career resources available to those studying degrees, and what we can do to help. The feedback from the students is positive; it’s tricky breaking into the environment sector, so any guidance we can give is always appreciated by young professionals.

Saturday, and our Annual South East Meeting is being held at Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park in south London, in which we have collaborated with the Land Trust and the Conservation Volunteers. It’s a good turnout of members, including all of the Committee. We have inspiring talks from a variety of speakers, from both NGOs and local planning authority backgrounds, such as from Paul Hetherington (Buglife), on ‘Arresting insect declines and the role of B-lines’. The talk showed the importance of invertebrate areas in the South East, highlighting brownfield sites in the Thames basin. Paul then focussed on pollinators and their importance (both to us and other species such as the oil beetle) and their decline.

Peter Massini (Greater London Authority) gave a talk about ‘Urban Greening’, building a picture of how we need to move away from seeing wildlife areas not as separate from development but integrated and part of it. Peter argued that this gives more opportunities in terms of space, funding, engaging people in green spaces, and combining with other sustainability aims, for example, human health and well-being and flood management. This is exemplified by Woodberry Down and its wetlands, the Olympic Village, Kidbrooke and Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. 

The Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park was the focus for Simon Pile (Land Trust) who described how the Park was originally created and how the Land Trust works with developers surrounding the site. He explained how the park is completely ‘unnatural’ with a whole range of artificially created habitats and an interesting water management system. This really successful day ended with conducted tours of the Ecology Park. There was good feedback from the attendees, on both the variety of speakers and the location, and mostly importantly, lots learnt throughout the day.

Overall, I hope the account of the month has shown the diversity in the tasks we undertake as Committee members, as well as the breadth of commitment we have for our region in providing the best experience we can to members and non-members of CIEEM. I would also hope that it shows how open we are to connecting with external organisations, from public bodies to academia. We can work together to better our profession, and all play a part in raising the standards in ecology and environmental management across the board.

Header image: Craig Llewellyn.

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank the CIEEM South East England Committee for all of their efforts, and hard work around full time jobs! Particular thanks to Vicky Bowskill, CIEEM’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, for all her help and guidance since I started as Convenor.

Craig Llewellyn

About the Author: Craig Llewellyn is currently a Senior Ecologist at AECOM, and leads Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) for large projects for a broad range of protected species and habitats, and holds several protected species licences. Craig has an interest in policy engagement, and an active interest in collaboration with other environmental disciplines.