Tag Archives | Ecologists

Policy advisor_ Marlies Westerhof_ NaturalScience.Careers

Policy advisor: If you know how the political system works, you can make a difference.

An interview with Marlies Westerhof, Policy Officer Nature and Landscape at a municipality in the Netherlands.

NSC: Marlies, you studied ecology at the University of Groningen and today you are a ‘Policy Officer…’ it sounds very political. Are you a politician?

MW: I am not a politician, but I do advise politicians. I am not attached to any political party, but the outcomes and content of my work are greatly dependent on the current political climate in the EU, the Netherlands and in the municipality. Hence, the election results decide whom I am advising, which political party this person represents, and what the current rules and policies this person needs to bear in mind.

NSC: What kind of policy advice do you give?

MW: I am advising our local councilwomen and councilmen (these people have been running for office and have won the elections) on agriculture, ecology, natural and landscape topics. This board of decision makers is coming with an assignment or a mission and I advise them on the implementations of it. Moreover, in the Netherlands citizens have ‘a voice.’ That means that every citizen has the right to propose and to object to plans. I consider all these assignments, proposals and objections and firstly advice on ‘if’ we should do something with it and if the board decides ‘we should do something with it’ then I advise them on ‘how’ to do it. For example, what to take into consideration, opinions of different people and organisations, and what science says about the topic at hand.…

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Seeing ecology in the legal framework, that is what it is all about.

An interview with Dagmar Heidinga about working in an ecological consulting firm.

What would best describe you as a professional?

I am a ‘Law and Natural Protection Specialist Flora and Fauna.’

Right. Sounds fancy. What does it mean? 

I am an ecologist by training and now work for an ecological consulting firm. We are advising companies, governments, managers of protected areas, and private persons about the legal frameworks of interventions and write action plans for natural protection.

As soon as anyone in the Netherlands wants to do any kind of activity that could potentially damage protected species, they need to get advice from an independent agency in order to get permission to pursue the activity. 

Can you give an example?

In the Netherlands bats, sparrows and swifts are protected species in residential areas by the Nature Protection Act. If anyone wants to get permission to renovate a house or demolish an old barn, they need to get permission from the government to do so. My field ecologist colleagues are coming to the area for a ‘quick scan’ to investigate if any of the protected species is nesting in the area. If the ‘quick scan’ is positive, meaning we suspect one of the protected species is in the area, we advise our client to do further research before the renovation or demolition takes place, because otherwise he or she could breach the law. The next step will be to conduct in-depth research during the time of the year that specific species is active; the breeding season.…

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