What motivates someone to work to save the Earth?
Young Post: Could you first share with us how you entered the field?
Leung: After completing an environment science degree course at Hong Kong University in 1997, I took a postgraduate course on freshwater ecology.
A year later, I studied for a PhD course, expanding my research area.
In the fourth year of my PhD studies, I began work as a part-time research assistant at the ecology and biodiversity department in the university. After finishing my PhD thesis, I took it up as a full-time job for a year.
As I wanted to know more about Hong Kong's natural habitat and environment, I began to take project-based jobs from NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and joined WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) two and a half months ago.
YP: What is the nature of your present position?
L: I take care of issues related to terrestrial conservation. There is another colleague who is taking care of conservation issues related to the ocean. We will look into how every development project affects or damages the local natural environment, then give our opinions and suggestions to the developer or the government.
We are also planning to do environmental impact assessment (EIA) for different development projects to minimise their influence on the natural environment.
When the project is completed, we will do some follow-up work, checking whether the approaches that we have adopted are efficient, and so on. YP: What was it that made you choose this career?
L: I liked outdoor activities such as hiking since I was very small. I've seen the impact and damage that humans bring to the natural environment. Therefore, I hoped to understand more about nature and protect it.
YP: How do you feel about your job right now?
L: I like working outdoors, but now my job is more about doing paperwork in the office.
But I still enjoy it. I like the responsibility of conserving the environment and influencing others to be aware of its significance. It's a strong motivation for me.
YP: What is the difference between a conservation researcher and someone working for NGOs or the government?
L: Researchers look more into the biological community and different species. There are different areas such as coastal, freshwater and terrestrial to focus on. When working for NGOs such as WWF, we focus more on the relationship between humans and the natural environment, and how humans affect habitats and different species.
Actually, there are not many positions in NGOs, so most graduates will work for the government or become EIA consultants for the business sector.
YP: Could you give some advice to people who are interested in joining the field?
L: You must be interested in local conservation issues. It will be an advantage if you have a pretty good understanding about local environmental problems.
You need to study science subjects, biology or geography at secondary school level to take ecology in university.
Name: Alan Leung Sze-lun
Occupation: WWF senior conservation officer