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Karen Mitchell: Marine campaigner

Updated Friday, 7th March 2008

Karen Mitchell explains her role as Marine Campaigns Major Project Manager, with Natural England

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Karen Mitchell Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Karen Mitchell

What does your typical day involve?

I usually start my typical day by catching up on press cuttings from national newspapers, specialist press and websites such as BBC online and FishUpdate to see what the media have picked up on which gives me a good idea of how other organisations’ campaigns are going.

I am currently developing a programme of activities for Summer 2008 to raise public awareness of the undersea environment, so I’m spending a lot of time pulling together ideas and investigating resources. At the moment, my team and I are finding out about 3D visual imagery and software, as well as sourcing equipment and potential props we need for public engagement activities. For example, we’d love to create a beach in a city centre, where we can get life size models of marine mammals and find artists to create illustrations of the underwater environment, where can we get multibeam bathymetry data from.

I’m also in daily contact with our marine specialists who know huge amounts about the marine environment. I need to get their input to what we doing to make sure it’s technically accurate. There are also regular internal business processes to attend to such as making the case for resources and reporting on our progress.

I also work with a range of different non-Governmental organisations, such as the National Trust and Wildlife Trusts to share ideas, so I’m often attending meetings to find where we can work in partnership.

This evening I’m also running a workshop with a local climate change action group about campaigning – in my spare time!

 

What made you decide to work on or around the coast?

Doing work about the coast wasn’t something I’d planned as my background was agriculture policy. However, a few years ago, I went diving in the Caribbean. After that, I went to the Dive Show and got chatting to UK divers. I was stunned that most of them thought that the best diving in the world was here! When this job came up I went for it – I wanted to do something tangible that would make a difference.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about this job is working with a really diverse range of people from scientists and policy experts to press officers and coastal NNR site managers.

I also enjoy being able to act as the link between marine science and policy at Natural England and the general public. It’s great to be able to tap into all that tremendous knowledge, expertise and passion for the environment at Natural England and turn it into activities and information that are attractive and accessible to the public.

What qualifications or experience do you need?

I got this job on the basis of my previous project management and communications experience. I was able to convince my managers that I could build a marine campaign without being a marine specialist. My job is to bring all the resources needed for a successful campaign together - money, expertise, ideas and contractors - and manage it all through to delivery.

Can you give any advice to others who might be thinking about following a similar career?

I’ve really benefited from being in a large organisation such as Natural England - it means there are lots of career opportunities. Although I started in agriculture policy analysis I ended up running a marine campaign. Once you’re in an organisation like this, you get the chance for secondments, training, mentoring and to suss out other jobs. Most importantly, you get to apply for jobs that are only ever advertised internally.

So, I’d advise being flexible and getting a foot in the door with a job that might not be initially perfect, but which could lead to other opportunities. Also, network, network, network! It’s a remarkably small world: get yourself known so that when a job comes up, people have you in mind.

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This page was originally published February 2008

 

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