Inspiring the next generation of young naturalists – ‘A Focus on Nature’ mentoring scheme


Encouraging a future generation, Isle of May © Lang Stewart

SOC is in the privileged position of having a membership composed of skilled ornithologists, scientists, educators and creatives, working within a wide range of industries and fields. In recent years particularly, the Club has sought to explore ways in which this wealth of knowledge and expertise can be passed on to ensure that there will be a future generation of naturalists recording, conserving and speaking up for our country’s birds.

Encouraged by the success of the Young Birders’ Training Course, a joint initiative with Isle of May Bird Observatory, the SOC is looking to build on the training and support the Club offers young naturalists.

A Focus On Nature (AFON, is a voluntary organisation run by a voluntary committee of nature conservationists and enthusiasts. The organisation’s aims complement the educational remit of the SOC and include: ensuring a transfer of skills and knowledge between generations, working with other youth networks and environmental organisations to create a youth conservation movement in the UK and promoting nature conservation and natural history to young people.

AFON runs and manage a successful mentoring scheme which matches volunteer mentors operating within a broad range of disciplines (including Practical Conservation, Nature Writing & Journalism, Art & Design, Policy & Campaigns, Filmmaking & Television, Science, Ecology & Surveying, and Academia & Research) with mentees: budding conservationists/writers/ scientists and similar, eager to
network with, and learn from, experienced professionals. AFON is looking to grow their mentoring programme in order to build on the support and expertise on offer to young conservationists.


Participants on the 2016 Young Birders’ Training Course learning to ring gulls © Stuart Rivers

How can you help?

In order to expand the SOC’s reach and offer help and support to naturalists at the beginning of their career, the Club is hoping to sign a
number of ‘SOC Mentors’ up to the scheme.

Prospective mentors complete a two-page form providing more information about themselves and their specific expertise, alongside a head
shot, which is added to AFON’s Mentors directory, as hosted on the organisation’s website.

Mentees complete an application form and shortlist three potential mentors they feel are the best suited to their individual career needs.
AFON distributes its application to each prospective mentor, who will then have the opportunity to comment and either approve or
reject applications at its discretion and for whatever reason – no explanation is required.

Mentoring can take many different formats: from a distance, e.g. via the internet, over the telephone, via social media, or on a much more personal basis, offering work experience, meetings, talks or lectures. Mentors are encouraged to give advice tailored to the individual mentee, appropriate to their circumstances (the scheme is open to mentees aged 18 and above).

As a minimum, AFON expects mentors to:
1. Send an introductory email explaining background and current career, thus entering into correspondence with the mentee
2. Answer all emails fully
3. Give advice on careers
4. Assist in the construction of CVs
5. Where appropriate provide references and recommend jobs and prospects, etc.
6. Highlight any upcoming opportunities to mentees

Any additional support (including any financial costs incurred) is given at the discretion of the mentor.

Mentoring is expected to continue for a minimum of six months, providing the recipient keeps up the correspondence, however, AFON
would like mentors to support talented individuals for as long as possible, following and influencing the careers of promising individuals.

If you would like to find out more about possibly becoming a mentor, please drop Jane a line: or contact 01875 871 330 for more information. To view a list of current mentors signed up to the scheme, visit Think you could benefit from working with a mentor? Visit for more information.