Protecting endangered environments – with Dr Emma McIntosh
Dr Emma McIntosh, 2014 BHP John Monash Scholar
DPhil in Geography and the Environment at Oxford University, UK
The John Monash Scholars are a constant source of inspiration and awe for Dr Emma McIntosh, 2014 BHP John Monash Scholar. If they can climb mountains, speak other languages or break glass ceilings, then Emma believes she has no excuse not to embark on similar extraordinary feats. As a conservation scientist, she is always trying to find effective ways to protect nature and promote diverse, healthy ecosystems. When she was awarded her Scholarship, it gave her both greater confidence and a stronger sense of responsibility to make positive change happen.
Friends and colleagues encouraged Emma to apply for her John Monash Scholarship and embark on a PhD at the School of Geography and Environment at the University of Oxford. This opportunity would give her the chance to explore the effectiveness of approaches used to protect landscapes and seascapes. Since completing her postgraduate studies at Oxford, Emma has benefited immensely from the experience of international study. Having worked with many people, in many places across the world, she has experienced conservation challenges in different contexts.
Today she works for Arcadia as a Consultant to Environmental Programmes. Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin that supports endangered cultural heritage, protects endangered ecosystems, and promotes access to knowledge. The organisation’s environmental goal is to protect the natural diversity of the world now and into the future and over $360 million (USD) has been committed since 2002. Emma’s role within grant management allows her to work with other non-profit organisations to safeguard and restore unique and biodiverse areas of land and sea. This involves restoring and protecting important habitats, halting illegal wildlife trade and improving environmental laws.
Recently Emma conducted a review of Acardia’s marine grant making, which flagged that they were among the top ten philanthropic donors for marine causes globally. She is now developing new concepts to expand support, given the urgency of the need to protect marine biodiversity. Nature conservation is a sector desperately short of funds and grant making in this area is for Emma both a great privilege and a great responsibility. It requires an understanding of how non-profit organisations can operate most effectively, and an awareness of how potential biases and power imbalances can affect the philanthropic and conservation sectors. Before her Scholarship, Emma had not been aware of grant making as a career option. She has loved this role and the fact that she can help other environmental changemakers to implement amazing initiatives worldwide.
During her studies, her Scholarship supporter BHP provided encouragement and invitations for Emma to share her research. With competition for environmental resources growing and climate change amplifying the sensitivities of our natural systems, BHP is increasingly keen to collaborate with John Monash Scholars, who are leading the way in this space. BHP’s commitment to minimising environmental impacts can be viewed on their website.
Healthy, complex and functioning ecosystems are just as important as healthy bodies, complex societies and functioning legal systems. BHP and Emma agree that we need leadership from other natural scientists and environmental advocates to help us to build a better and clearer future, so our natural world can thrive. Each year when Emma volunteers for the Foundation as an online reviewer and reads applications from other people invested in protecting the environment, she feels encouraged. Whether these people are fortunate to receive a Scholarship or not, they are still doing remarkable things to help the collective effort towards protecting our endangered environments.