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WORK LIFE - WHAT'S IN A NAME

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Suzanne Simmons-Lewis looks at trends in job titles ...
Suzanne Simmons-Lewis looks at trends in job titles

Biodiversity officer

Convincing busy council departments to consider the impact their policies have on living organisms - from tiny insects to large areas of woodland - is no easy task.

At Clackmannanshire Council, this responsibility falls to biodiversity officer Louise Bond. She has been seconded to the council from Scottish Natural Heritage for two years to develop a biodiversity action plan for the council.

'Biodiversity is every living thing that surrounds us for life; it's the food we eat, the air we breathe, even the clothes we wear,' explains Ms Bond.

'My role is to integrate the biodiversity action plan into all relevant activities - this includes the council's community plan and its development plan.'

For example, any development proposal the council undertakes should consider the impact to local biodiversity and safeguard the habitat.

Biodiversity increased its profile following the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where countries across the world made a commitment to preserve and enhance biological diversity for the benefit of present and future generations. The UK government has a biodiversity plan, and at a local level every council is required to deliver biodiversity options in all its activities.

In Scotland there are 22 biodiversity officers, out of a possible 25. The job usually sits within the environment or regeneration departments. Sometimes it can be found in the planning department.

However, Jo Lenthall, project officer for the Scotland Local Biodiversity Action Plan, says council officers are yet to realise the wider benefits of biodiversity to issues such as health, anti-social behaviour and community safety.

She uses the example of a rat infestation in West Lothian. 'By using an education and leaflet campaign to stop people feeding the birds, the rat infestation stopped,' she says.

'One problem we face is that people see us as only having a nature conservation role, although it's much wider than that.

'At the moment, it does seem to be just parks and recreation that engage with it. Planning is improving, but we still need it to be wider than that.'

She adds: 'Although it may never happen, a roving biodiversity officer [across all council departments] would be the answer.'

Ms Lenthall co-ordinates and supports the 22 biodiversity officers in Scotland. There are four other people with her role in the UK: two in England, one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland.

Ms Bond accepts her job could benefit from a higher profile, but she is hopeful.

She says: 'People are still confused when they hear my job title. But these days, people are more environmentally aware - there are more recycling and green initiatives, so they have some idea. The Scottish Biodiversity Forum has just launched its national biodiversity strategy, so this should help.'

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