Sarah Mason - Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust

Some people don’t discover their true vocation until well into their working lives. Sarah knew from the age of 11 that she wanted to be a countryside manager.

After schooling in Newbury, Berkshire, she gained an HND in Conservation Management at Farnborough College, University of Surrey in 1995. Dorset Wildlife Trust provided her with an introduction to hands-on conservation as a volunteer marine education officer, working mainly with children.

In 1998, Sarah began an association with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) that was to last until 2013. A period as a fullt-time unpaid Assistant Conservation Officer allowed her to hone her skills in ecological surveying, organising public events, talks and school visits. Her experience in fund-raising started in 1999 when she funded her first paid contract for conservation work in the Forest of Dean.

Sarah soon became Volunteers Manager and before long, ‘Head of People and Wildlife’. Quickly, the Director had also added the role of ‘Head of Nature Reserves’ managing 70 nature reserves and a staff team of 5. 

In 2007 Sarah took a sabbatical year, living & working in Spain & on her return to GWT she became ‘Head of Nature and People’ leading a team of 15 staff, gaining a wealth of experience in managing nature reserves, fund-raising, business planning and networking with related organisations. In 2012 it was time to look for pastures new and in early 2013 Sarah took up the Scilly appointment: it admirably suited someone with the multiplicity of skills that she had acquired.

“  Having a sea view every day is such a treat and it makes me feel really rather lucky. Scilly’s natural environment is special in so many ways. There are 26 sites of special scientific interest and last year the waters around the islands were designated a Marine Conservation Zone. Scilly is internationally important for the Atlantic grey seal and storm petrel and nationally important for plants like dwarf pansy.

The Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust looks after 64 per cent of Scilly, which is a huge job for such a tiny organisation. One of the challenges we face comes from invasive species like pittosporum, which does a great job shielding daffodil fields from the harsh winds, but if it spreads to grassland and heathland, it can really take over. There is a fine balance to find too between tourism and conservation, but I think they are definitely compatible. How else can people understand and appreciate the environment if they can’t actually experience it.