Kasia Mikołajczak: Serving on a SIG committee

Kasia has always felt welcomed in the British Ecological Society and is now Deputy Chair of the Conservation Ecology Special Interest group. She encourages others to get involved, given all that she’s got out of it.

Kasia Mikołajczak
Kasia Mikołajczak

The British Ecological Society (BES) is hands down my favourite academic society. It’s friendly, it’s welcoming, it’s fun. And it has been with me every step of the way of my academic journey.

My connection to the BES

It started with my first BES conference, more than 10 years ago, when I was a third-year undergraduate student. I went there on my own – there were few undergrads at those conferences back then – but I made some friends and was soon taken under her wing by Karen Devine, at that time the BES Education Officer. And so it began.

Since then, I have volunteered in various roles and capacities, initially mainly to do with events for other students. For the past few years, I’ve been serving as the Deputy Chair of the Conservation Ecology Special Interest Group (SIG), taking on various tasks from curating the website to organising training workshops and mentoring younger committee members.

All this time, the BES has been an important source of inspiration, career advice, networks, friendship and a place to learn all the transferable skills every young researcher needs.

In reality, clichéd as it sounds, you get back as much or more than you give

What’s special to me about the BES is that I’ve always felt welcome and supported here, even though I did not follow a strictly ecological career path. After my undergraduate degree, my interests widened from ecology and evolution to ever more socially-oriented research, particularly on human-nature relationships.

These days, I consider myself an ‘interdisciplinary conservation scientist’. Even so, I continue to feel supported here, as the Society’s interests have also expanded in this direction. Today, human-nature relations have a firm place in the BES Annual Meeting’s programme and they have even gained their own journal, People and Nature, which has become the main outlet for my research.

Benefits of volunteering

Volunteering is of course a way to give back to the BES. But in reality, clichéd as it sounds, you get back as much or more than you give. Being part of a SIG committee gives you space to develop ideas and make things happen that you want to see happen.

As a bonus, you get insider knowledge about all the new developments in the Society, and you get to interact with an amazing peer group who are enthusiastic about those same (niche!) things that you are. And the more you get involved, the more support you get (shout out to Georgina from the Events team!).

It is a really great environment and I’m thankful to all of the amazing people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with through the SIGs.

If you’ve been thinking about volunteering with the BES, I strongly suggest you go for it, chances are you’ll have a great time.