This Q&A is with one of the first conservationists who reached out to me when I started this blog: Matthias Fiechter. At the time he was the Communications Manager for the Snow Leopard Trust, but now he’s a Media and Communications Officer for the IUCN.
The IUCN, or International Union for Conservation of Nature, is one of the most respected conservation organizations in the world. They maintain the Red List, which tracks the conservation status of thousands of animals, plants, and fungi. Thus, working for the IUCN is a “big deal” in scientific terms.
Matthias’ new position has brought him back to his home country of Switzerland; he’s lived abroad for the past eight years in the United States, Germany, Sweden, and India.
I sent Matthias a list of five questions about himself and his work, and here’s how he responded:
What are your primary duties as a Media and Communications Officer for the IUCN?
I serve as a liaison between journalists and our vast network of experts at the IUCN.
When we have newsworthy results – a success story, a landmark report, or an update to the IUCN Red List – my colleagues and I help our experts to communicate those stories. And when journalists have questions about nature and conservation, I help them find the right person to speak to and coordinate that exchange.
Beyond that, we offer media training for our experts, keep an eye on what is being discussed and reported, and try to help with whatever communications tasks pop up.
When you earned your master’s degree in Media & Communications Studies in 2007, what sort of work did you envision yourself doing?
I used to envision myself working as a journalist, but when I started gaining experience in Communications and PR I realized that doing outreach for a cause I cared about was the best fit for my skills and interests.
How did you become involved with the Snow Leopard Trust?
It was partly by coincidence. I happened to move to Seattle in 2011, and began looking for an opportunity there. When the Snow Leopard Trust advertised a position, it was a perfect match. So, I joined as an Online Marketing Specialist, which then merged into a Communications Manager position.
Were you already passionate about wildlife conservation when you joined the Snow Leopard Trust?
I certainly was, especially about big cats. When I was little, I dreamt of becoming a wildlife biologist; so, my job today is a combination of two earlier dreams: biology and journalism.
Of all the places you’ve lived, which has left the biggest impression on you?
Each of the places I was fortunate to live in shaped me.
Growing up in Switzerland certainly had an impact on me, both in terms of enabling me to travel and see the world, and in providing access to education and a general sense of security and comfort.
Living in the U.S. was an adventure and a privilege. It’s a country with a lot of amazing qualities and a few traits that were confusing to me as a European, but it was a great experience!
India was perhaps the most impressive country I’ve lived in, though.
The sheer diversity; the intensity of life in a metropolis such as Bangalore; the resiliency, inventiveness, and warmth of Indians from all backgrounds – those are impressions I’ll never forget. Furthermore, in terms of wild places and food, it’s one of the world’s great destinations.
I’d sincerely like to thank Matthias for participating in this Q&A, as I enjoyed being able to interview someone with similar interests as myself. I hope that readers will consider supporting the Snow Leopard Trust and the IUCN, since they both do great work!