10 Sep Meet the Ebony Forest team: Christelle Ferriere
10 September 2023
Where would we be without Christelle! Life would certainly be much more disorganized and of course, we would all drink less coffee! Christelle ensures the smooth running of our training courses, workshops and webinars! Plus she keeps us well-fed with cookies and cakes.
Christelle has an MSc in Conservation Biology from the University of New South Wales (Sydney) and Victoria (New Zealand). Besides keeping us organized, she brings over 9 years of experience working with the Mauritius Fody, Mauritius Olive White-eye, Mauritius Cuckoo-shrike and Mauritius Paradise Flycatcher, as well as Pink Pigeon. She shares with us her vast array of experience in bird ringing, handling, population monitoring, hand-rearing and translocation of passerines.
What lead you to a career in conservation?
Chance. I was headed towards a career in Marine Biology. After my Bachelor’s degree in Biology and before I started a Master’s, I was looking to volunteer with a marine organization, but couldn’t find anything because of my asthma. Asthma and diving are not conducive. A family friend told me about the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and I thought “might as well since I am doing nothing at home”. I applied to be a volunteer with them and Dr Nicolas Zuël told me it was a minimum of a month. A month became three, they started paying me. After six months, I realized I was too late for my Master’s applications and was proposed a job on Ile aux Aigrettes with the fodies for the off-season. I accepted as I had fallen in love with the Mauritius Fody. This morphed into hand-rearing the little darlings while doing my applications six months later. I switched my Master’s in Marine Biology to Conservation Biology and I never looked back. Hook, line and sinker as they say and no regrets!
Christelle holding a Mauritius Fody.
You have been working at Ebony Forest for over three years. What does a typical week look like?
Oh dear. No two weeks are the same. I can be monitoring birds in the forest, looking for seedlings, planting, organizing a workshop, organizing courses, interviewing or training a volunteer, catching birds to ring, writing grant applications,… the list goes on. It is rarely boring.
Christelle explaining to Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund course participants how to set up and use camera traps.
What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a job in conservation?
Volunteer. Then you can make sure you know what you are getting into. Conservation is a deeply satisfying occupation, but not an easy one. If you already decided you want to become a conservationist, then there are so many opportunities available and all requiring different skillsets. You can work anywhere in the world. Again, I recommend gaining voluntary or, even better, paid experience. All knowledge is relevant. You need to have multiple hats when working in conservation, for example, fundraiser, researcher, manager, awareness raising, sometimes even carpenter or plumber.
What’s your favourite animal?
It is not nice to have a preference… cough Olive White-eye cough. Of course!
Where is your favourite place?
Joking aside, I really love spending time in a forest, any forest, I find them very peaceful. I am also always discovering new things in forests, be it small insects, bird behaviour’s or things about myself. Never a dull moment.
Do you have any superpowers?
No. I wish. But I am quite good with finding passerines and their nest.
Mosquitos or Mouche jaunes?
Mosquitoes! I am allergic to Mouche jaunes and it is not pretty.
Do you ever get depressed with the state of conservation in the world?
Yes, it is hard to deal with at times. But then I do what I always do when faced with something that feels too overwhelming to deal with: I separate it in small manageable bits and do what I can. It helps me see the good we are making and gets me back on track. We can only do our maximum and hope that others are doing the same.
If you were an animal in Mauritius, what animal would you be and why?
Often get told I am a rare bird but I would not want to literally be one. They have too hard a life! Probably a flycatcher, big enough to not get too many problems from the other birds, but adaptable and also an exceptional flier as witnessed when they stop centimeters from a mistnet, look at it then perch on the thing instead of getting caught in it.