Media Intern Mackenzie McDermott talks to Ciara Morton, Conservation Intern about how her passion for conservation started and where she goes from here.........
Before Ciara Morton could so much as spell biodiversity she was out in the wilderness searching for species. Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, Morton’s “hippy” parents were determined to share their love of the outdoors with their children.
“[My parents would] always make [me and my siblings] look for species that were rare in an area and get excited about what we could find and I enjoyed science and geography in school and I just started going down that path,” said Morton, a six month conservation intern at Crees Manu.
Morton’s mother had started moving towards a future in conservation education up until she had Ciara and her two brothers. The mother didn’t need to be a teacher to spark a passion for the environment in the minds of her children.
The plant enthusiast even once took Morton to listen to trees with a stethoscope. With amplified hearing, you can hear the pulse of the flowing sap like a heartbeat. Through a simple exercise, she showed Morton that the world is much bigger than the human race.
“We should care more about the other inhabitants of this planet because it’s not just us and we’re the ones ruining it so somebody’s got to do something,” Morton said.
This passion wasn’t only from Morton’s parents. Inspired by nature docuseries Morton earned her bachelor's degree in Environmental Geography and set out to find her next step.
Many google searches and a perfectly directed Facebook ad pointed her in the right direction. She was lead to the application form for a six-month conservation internship in the Peruvian Amazon for the Crees Foundation.
“My friends encouraged me lots to do it at the start and then when I actually accepted the place they told me that I was crazy and that they would’ve never done it which was really helpful,” joked Morton.
Morton’s parents also had their hesitations but were more worried about the travel than the job.
“My parents were concerned for my safety obviously traveling alone in a foreign country where I did not speak the language. They were quite nervous about it but then by the time that I was due to leave I think they were more excited than I was,” Morton said.
Here, Morton’s duties range from logging the weather three times a day to the very thing she came to the jungle to gain, leadership experience. Morton leads surveys in the field checking butterfly traps and even taking charge of volunteers in gathering data for her very own project of searching streams for macroinvertebrates.
“I enjoy going into the field… most of the time the field is really interesting because I love seeing the animals when we see them,” Morton said.
With five out of her six months with Crees under Morton’s belt, her favorite jungle memory is still from her early days in the rainforest.
“It was the first time that I had actually like spotted something myself and somebody hadn’t pointed it out and because it was a big snake it was actually quite scary. It was a bit of a thrill. That was a good day,” Morton said.
Through tiring days and nights of sledding through the mud of the rainforest floor a concern for the greater good keeps Morton pushing forward.
“We are living on this planet currently and I feel like it’s slightly concerning that more people are not concerned that our home is kind of endangered at the present. We should stop being bad people,” Morton said.
Still, you don’t need to go halfway around the world to get involved in conservation.
“Definitely volunteer for companies in your free time and there are some that you can even show up for a day and then that’s all that you have to do. It’s not like commitments,” Morton said.
Back in Urban Glasgow, getting to projects can be a struggle but Morton is determined to put in the time and effort to better her local community when she returns from the rainforest.
“It’s a lot of accessibility. A lot of projects are sort of pretty far out so unless you have got a car or can get a transport there then it’s difficult to participate in some things,” Morton said.
For aspiring conservationists, Morton encourages you to find a way to get out there. Experience outside of the classroom is one of the top qualities Morton is after as she breaks into her career.
“Make sure you do a lot of volunteering. There are loads of little community projects that you can be working with lots. I think one of my mistakes was that through [University] I didn’t find time to volunteer more so I’ve been trying to fill in the gaps in my CV now,” Morton said.
When Morton finishes up her time in the Amazon she plans to move on to other conservation projects, get a pet guinea pig and continue to toy with the idea of working towards a masters in some vein of conservation
Thanks to Mackenzie and Ciara for their insight and thoughts on conservation.