It is my pleasure to introduce Miss. Fay Taylor. She is a budding chiropterologist. She has been researching bats since her postgraduate degree in 2016. She has worked for both conservation NGOs and ecological consultancies in Mauritius, Malawi and the UK. She is now working toward her Ph.D. at Kyoto University; her research focuses on one of the lesser-known endemic species, Myotis pruinosus.
I recently spoke with Fay Taylor about her work. Here is our conversation:
Hi Fay Taylor! Nice to virtually meet you.
What are your personal and professional goals?
Fay: Hi Ussi, nice to virtually meet you too. I'll happily answer your questions.
Starting with my professional goals, I'd like to work towards further bat research and working towards a world where bats are protected and viewed in a more positive light. I want to educate and share these amazing species with the world. Personally, I am aiming towards being able to purchase my own house in the mountains that I can renovate into an ecohouse, to live with my future dogs, grow vegetables and write fantasy books.
How are you going to achieve these goals?
Fay: I'm going to achieve these goals by completing my Ph.D. here at Kyoto University in Japan. Then I will work toward gaining further research positions and perhaps begin working at another university to start teaching or start my own NGO to educate people about bats. If I stay in Japan, I'll also be working towards improving my Japanese language skills to be able to make this endeavour a success amongst local people.
Do you volunteer? If so, what do you do and what is your impact?
Fay: I don't currently volunteer but I have in the past.
My past voluntary experiences include working with the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (UK) as part of their community outreach team and on their Restoring Ratty project that endeavoured to bring pack water vole populations to Kielder Forest. I also have volunteered at the Northumbrian Hedgehog Rescue and Tynemouth Aquarium, and interned at Chester Zoo. Another voluntary project I worked on was as a red squirrel ranger for North East Red Squirrels, where I was assisting with monitoring threatened red squirrel populations in my local area, I also got to attend a conference! Last but not least, I volunteered as a research assistant for African Bat Conservation in Malawi. Here I was part of a team based in Lilongwe where we monitored urban bats, assisted with human-wildlife conflict management (I even got to create a workshop for students), community outreach, and roost monitoring.
Are there other ways you are active in your community?
Fay: Right now, as a Ph.D. student with limited Japanese, I have yet to find my feet in my community here but I am hoping to help with something in the future. My goal is to help the conservation community in Japan.
Do you have any unique skills or talents?
Fay: I'm not sure any of my skills or talents are particularly unique, though I have been told I am very adaptable and I'm able to make a home anywhere. I can settle into new situations and countries pretty well. I've also been told I'm a good singer but I don't think that's a very relevant talent.
How do you use them to make a difference?
Fay: Using these to make a difference, I suppose is more related to when I start a new job or move to a new country (I have so far lived in 4 different countries), it is essential to quickly settling in so I can get started on what I'm there to do. I can also use this ability to help others feel at home, especially if they have no experience of hopping about so much. The singing I suppose can help keep morale up in a research camp pretty well, plus if anyone can get stuck in and feel silly singing in the kitchen, it can help make a home far away from home feel a lot more cosy and full of life.
How did you hear about WildHub and why did you join?
Fay: I heard about WildHub a long time ago via LinkedIn.
What inspired you to become an environmentalist?
Fay: If my mother is to be believed, I've been interested in wildlife since before I could talk. I used to constantly insist she went through animal books with me, even though I couldn't read them at the time, but we went through endless pictures. I just wanted to learn more and more about animals from an early age. Then, watching David Attenborough and various other wildlife-based experts on TV, I just knew I wanted to do anything to get me out there to help on the frontlines of conservation. I tried working in a zoo but I wasn't satisfied., I wanted to do more, to make more of a difference with in-situ conservation. I wanted to be the voice for those that didn't have one. I wanted to help heal the damage humans were doing to the planet and protect those getting caught in the crossfire.
Is there something that would make WildHub even better for you or people you know?
Fay: I'm only just delving back into it, but I'd love to be able to have more communication with like-minded experts moving forward. Hopefully, this will come with time spent working toward building a network here.
How does your work impact other people in conservation?
Fay: My work at the moment is a bit of a new frontier. Bat research in Japan is very limited and I'm hoping to be able to pave the way to simplify future bat research here as well as teach more people about the wonders of bats. I'm training more people in the methods as well as shedding some light on a forgotten bat species.
Based on your professional background, what are the top 5 lessons you can share with us?
Fay: Here are the top five lessons I learned from my experience in Conservation👇🏾
- Always expect the unexpected: Things will likely never go the way you planned. Flexibility is so important in conservation work as incidents can occur when you least expect them. You can't control the weather or what's around you, so always prepare for what you can and learn to roll with it for the things that you can't.
- They're not bad people, they're just trying to survive: When working in areas where human-wildlife conflict is rife, this is something that is very important to remember. It's so easy to sit and consider how the people poaching or killing endangered species are the villains and if they just stopped chopping trees down or shooting things, it would solve the problems. This is not always the case because often, people carry out these actions because it is necessary for them to survive with often little alternatives. So, it is vital to treat these people with empathy rather than aggression for something they don't often have a choice about. Or even it is less about means, and more about lack of education. Which leads us to the next point.
- Without community outreach, you can't have a conservation project: Education is one of the most important aspects of a project. This is where sources of funding can be found and where you can help mitigate some of the issues surrounding your target species/area. The more people know about what you're doing, the more amiable they can be and you can help shift their mindset if, for example, it is a matter of debunking myths and perception shifts. The power of talking to people is immense and is such a feather in your cap.
- Keeping morale up in a field station is vital: When working away from home and often in less than comfy conditions, it can be really hard going on your mental health. So doing things together as a group and forming good bonds with your team is so important. This might be as simple as having meals together and sharing workloads, watching TV shows on whoever has the largest laptop screen, or playing Dungeons and Dragons while the rain hammers on the corrugated iron roof of your office. So many things you can do together! This leads to more open communication and people feeling closer. More amicable work relationships can help with how the teamwork flows and make conflict management easier.
- Don't lose hope: I think so often in our job, it is easy to lose hope, maybe even give up when things get hard or seem impossible. This sector is difficult and sometimes it feels like we're fighting a losing battle to save what's nearest and dearest to us. I believe it is so important to keep trying and fighting because nature surprises us in so many ways. Things that might seem completely hopeless, can bounce back. As Dumbledore said, light can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. Keep your lights shining bright, and we can make a difference together.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our WildHub members?
Fay: At present, I'd just like to say, keep doing what you're doing and we'll make this a better place for creatures great and small.