Faculty of Earth Sciences and Geography PhD student, Fleur Nash, worked for the IIED on a project for the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs under the UK government on her Cambridge Grand Challenges fellowship looking at the impacts of biodiversity loss on women and girls

I wished to work with the IIED because this organization has always been a place I admired for the type and quality of the work that they do. They are a leading thinker in the social science conservation space, and I have used a lot of their work before. I wanted to gain experience of research outside of academia as that is something I may want to pursue after my PhD. I also wanted to build more contacts in this conservation space.

I was hoping that I would get involved in a substantial piece of work and work with as part of a team towards a concrete output.

I settled in fairly quickly as got on well with the people and was used on working from home and independently (all things I have gained from doing a PhD). It did take me some time to adjust to working at a faster pace with daily deadlines.

I worked with people from similar backgrounds to people I have worked with before in conservation. Also, when we were conducting interviews with experts from around the world, I felt comfortable doing this as this is what I did a lot for my PhD.

The learning aims of the fellowship for myself were to gain experience in new social science methods, in national and international policy, and, understand project management for research projects that are conducted outside of academia.

The fellowship has given me a taste of conducting research outside of an academic environment when you have a client to please and have to conduct a large amount of work in a short period of time. This experience has given me a fresh perspective on how I am going to approach the writing phase of my PhD such as thinking how my research can be used by policy makers and practitioners outside of academia. I did not undertake specific training as part of the fellowship – I learnt as I worked and from those I was working with, which was enormously beneficial.

The project was looking at the impacts of biodiversity loss on women and girls. The project was for the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs under the UK government. The project conducted an evidence review and policy review. The project included key informant interviews and a survey with experts from around the world.

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer

The fellowship went above and beyond meeting these aims. I gained new knowledge and skills as well as built strong networks with the team I was working with and the experts we were interviewing.
I would highly recommend doing an fellowship as it could give you a fresh perspective on your PhD to boost your motivation for the last push. I would advise not to think of the fellowship as an easy break from your research, as I found it just as hard if not more due to the fast space and learning new ways.

Fleur Nash’s placement with the IEDD took place between January and March 2022

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