Rewilding and nature restoration with Matthew Creasey

I was fortunate enough to hear Matthew Creasey's expertise and a background on rewilding and nature restoration work, and how important and impactful it is for nature and our connection with it.
Rewilding and nature restoration with Matthew Creasey

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My name is Fleur Morton, and I am a part of WildHub’s Conservation Catalyst programme, which is all about creating engaging content through interviewing experts in the field of nature and conservation about their expertise and experience. I joined this programme as a recent Master’s graduate who is passionate about the field of conservation, and I have great enthusiasm for learning all that I can from inspiring professionals while I begin my career. I have a lot of experience in researching many animal species from my Master of Animal Behaviour Psychology, and am beginning my career in animal and wildlife conservation.  I was fortunate enough to have a conversation with Course Development Manager Matthew Creasey, in which he shared his expertise in rewilding and nature restoration, and why it is such impactful work, as well as general advice for working in the field. Please find this conversation below.

Fleur: Could you tell me a bit about yourself? How long have you worked in the conservation field? What made you pursue a career in this area?

Matthew: I've been in the field for about a decade now, but that includes completing a PhD in Behavioural Ecology. I’ve been with WildTeam for over five years, working on our communications, developing our best practices and delivering training courses. I was brought up in conservation as both of my parents worked in the field - it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

Fleur: Could you tell us what you're currently working on?

Matthew: I'm currently working on a project creating a series of training courses on restoration and rewilding with a partner organisation based out in East Africa called Natural State. The first course is focusing on how to plan and implement a restoration project, so we're building on WildTeam's existing best practice approaches on stakeholder engagement, project planning and monitoring and evaluation (all of which are available for free on our website), and tailoring them to restoration and rewilding.

Fleur: What aspects of nature restoration and rewilding would you say you are the most passionate about?

Matthew: Restoring some balance and connection. We've become increasingly detached from nature, and I think it is vital for our long term well-being that we restore a balance; that ecosystems are helped to recover, and we stop seeing ourselves as separate from nature.

It is vital for our long term well-being that we restore a balance" (Matthew Creasey, WildTeam)

Fleur: So why do you feel that rewilding is important for conservation today?

Matthew: For centuries, conservation has worked to protect nature and maintain reservoirs of biodiversity. So when we restore ecosystems, we still have the species to recolonise them. Habitat destruction and degradation have been the biggest driver of biodiversity loss globally, so we need to reverse that trend. These shrinking islands that conservationists have protected must be expanded before it is too late.

Fleur: What would you say are the key skills involved in nature restoration, and rewilding work?

Matthew: There are many ways to have an impact, so there is no single skill set, but identify what your niche is, and get the relevant skill set for your passions. If you want to be an ecologist, then you may (or may not) need a degree, if you want to be a community activist or a communicator, you may need different skills. Work out where your passions and skills lie. 

Fleur: In terms of technical parts of restoration, how do you identify whether to use a passive or active restoration approach in an area?

Matthew: In our approach, once you have a good understanding of the current situation, you start by identifying what key results you want to achieve. You can then work back in a chain of cause and effect, and at the end choose what work you're going to do to achieve results. You will need to consider budget and capacity, and what types of work will trigger the biggest overall change, so it’s a very strategic, step-wise process. You can find more information on this approach in our Project planning for Wildlife Conservation best practice.


Fleur: So, how does an area get selected for rewilding and restoration work?

Matthew: That varies around the world and depends on who owns the land and the funding model. New funding models are becoming available all the time. If it’s private land, it is a decision for the landowner. Often it is land that is less productive for agriculture.

Fleur: What kind of impact do you think rewilding will have on the climate crisis on a global scale?

Matthew: Land conversion is still currently the leading direct threat to nature, but unless we meet climate targets, climate change is likely to become the primary driver of habitat and biodiversity loss in the coming decades. Healthy ecosystems also store carbon, so increasing restoration will lock up some carbon and reduce the amount released.

“We're all working towards the same thing: healthy ecosystems and healthy human communities” (Matthew Creasey, WildTeam)


Fleur: What progress do you hope to see in rewilding in the next 10 years?

Matthew: Rewilding has captured the public imagination, but it has also been a source of conflict. I hope to see it become a mainstream approach, but also that we will find ways to bridge those divisions, because ultimately we're all working towards the same thing: healthy ecosystems and healthy human communities.

Fleur: What are your ultimate career goals?

Matthew: At the most basic level, there being more wild space than when I started, and nudging that dial in the right direction. It also goes back to balance and connection, rethinking our relationship with the word “wild” and what that actually means. 

Fleur: What advice would you give early career conservation professionals looking to make a difference in wildlife and biodiversity?

Matthew: There are two approaches - targeted or random. If you have a calling towards a specific job type, identify what skills you need, and go after it. If you are happy going with the flow, find an opportunity that excites you and see where it takes you. You can also switch between these - if you find yourself on an enjoyable path, you can choose to take a strategic approach: identify what skills you’d need for that position, speak to people who have the role and ask employers what gaps you need to fill. Make sure you are the logical person to hire.

Fleur: What do you wish people knew about rewilding?

Matthew: I think people do know this, but it can get lost sometimes - that healthy human populations and healthy ecosystems are not either/or’s - we need both. In fact, they’re not even different things. Humans depend on nature, both in agricultural landscapes and natural ecosystems, for our continued wellbeing. We are, and always will be, part of an interdependent ecological community. We’re intrinsically wilder than we think.

“ We are, and always will be, part of an interdependent ecological community. We’re intrinsically wilder than we think.” (Matthew Creasey, WildTeam)

For more information regarding the rewilding and nature restoration training courses that are being launched by Natural State, contact

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Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
2 months ago

Wonderful interview - thank you for sharing and facilitating @Fleur Morton and @Matthew Creasey !

Go to the profile of Rezoana Arefine
2 months ago

Great Fleur! You did a fantastic job❤️

Go to the profile of Fleur Morton
2 months ago

Thank you! 😁