Giving Compass' Take:

• Photographer and ecologist Jen Guyton passes along some key advice for those aspiring to dedicate themselves to conserving biodiversity.

• The main takeaway: You don't have to be a scientist to do important work in this area. Find your passion, then follow it to meaningful projects with like-minded collaborators.

• Read about why we should pay attention to preachers of animal rights.

“How can I make the biggest difference for conservation?”

Over the past 5 years, I’ve asked a lot of people this question. I was sure someone would have a straightforward answer, even if I didn’t like it. “If it means saving rainforests,” I thought to my naive self, “I’ll spend the rest of my life locked in a basement, writing letters to lawmakers.” Fortunately for my own life enjoyment, the answer isn’t that simple. In fact, the replies I got from prominent conservationists, who have spent their lives making a real difference, were hugely variable.

For the purposes of this blog, I’ll define a conservationist as anyone who dedicates a substantial portion of their time and/or resources to conserving biodiversity, single species, or habitats anywhere in the world. Yes, it really is that broad! As you’ll see below, you don’t have to be a scientist to be a conservationist. You can be an artist, a manager, an investor, an engineer, an organic farmer … anyone can pivot to make a real contribution to conservation.

So what should YOU do as an aspiring conservationist? I’ll walk you through the great advice I’ve gotten from a few of the conservationists I admire.

  1. Figure out where your passions and your talents lie. This might require trying a few different things: working a few different jobs, taking some specialized classes in college, or volunteering your time to things that pique your interest.
  2. Find one place or one project that you can dedicate serious time, energy, and resources to.
  3. Find collaborators; great partners can help you advance your cause in a number of different ways.
  4. Get out of the box. Conservation isn’t only about the natural world; helping human communities can help conservation too.
  5. No matter who you are and what you’re doing, even if you don’t become a “professional” conservationist, you can make a contribution to conservation.
  6. Your path might be a winding one; you might hit a few roadblocks or get a little lost, and that’s OK!

Read the full article about how to be a conservationist by Jen Guyton at National Geographic.