Dr Alex Diment
- Studied: Master of Applied Science and PhD
- Now works as: Capacity Builder and Development Officer, Flora and Fauna International
Last year, in a remote corner of Tajikistan, camera traps captured rare footage of five snow leopards on a mountainside. These 250 photos – some of mothers with their cubs – were the result of a biodiversity survey led by Dr Alex Diment.
“Managing a team of 25 people to find the elusive snow leopard has definitely been a highlight of my career so far,” says Alex, Capacity Builder and Development Officer for the conservation organisation Flora and Fauna International.
With a career that has taken him around the world, Alex says he was drawn to conservation by “a love of biology, thirst for travel and desire to fix global problems”. After majoring in biology at the University of Oxford then a Masters of Applied Science at Sydney, the call of international travel took him to Cambodia where he worked on projects such as conservation of endangered Mekong river dolphins.
Five years later, Alex left Cambodia for a PhD at Sydney studying invasive foxes. Here he developed expertise in camera trapping and genetic analysis, which Alex says was his “calling card” in winning his current job. “Being the world’s expert on a particular technique or species really helps in this industry,” he says.
Science techniques aren’t the only skills Alex uses in his job. Much of his role involves working with people and governments, albeit in “amazing places”. “I work with locals, teaching them how to conserve their environments. I also liaise with governments and donors for fundraising, and do project management and reporting,” he says.
With long hours in the field and frequent travel – clocking-up 100 days away in a year – Alex says that flexibility, ability to adapt to changing circumstances and people skills are paramount. “Sometimes you’ll get to work and realise, ‘I’ve got to go to Mongolia next week!’” he says.
Despite the unconventional working conditions, Alex’s job gives him a sense of excitement and wonder of the world, and an enormous satisfaction from doing something worthwhile. “Seeing young people grow and becoming custodians of their environment is so rewarding,” he says.
The conservation industry is made up of people with a burning passion for their field, so Alex recommends that newcomers arrive with a fearless attitude and lots of volunteering experience to get their foot in the door. “Jump in head-first. If you want to work on tigers in Nepal, then get on a plane, go to somebody’s office in Nepal and tell them that you want to work – it might be for free at first, but eventually you’ll be hired.”