A new coordinator for the Frankfurt Spring School

Organizing the Frankfurt Spring School is a lot of work: setting up the programme and booking trainers are only the most obvious tasks to take care of. Several people are involved, spending hundreds of hours, to get the Spring School running. For the past three years, a core team with representatives from the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Goethe University and the KfW Foundation organized the Frankfurt Spring School beside their day-to-day jobs. Now, this has changed. Thanks to the Metzler Foundation, the Frankfurt Zoological Society was able to employ for the first time a coordinator for the Frankfurt Spring School 2020 – Stephanie Kalberer.

Since the beginning of her studies in biology in Switzerland,  she has participated in many research and conservation projects worldwide – from Northern Germany to South Africa, Western Australia to Galápagos. Additionally, Stephanie has gained ten years of management experience: at a university, in a biotech company and as a student management consultant. This spring she attended the Frankfurt Spring School herself and was part of the social-media team contributing blog content during that time.


In this post, she answered a couple of questions for us (for the interview in German done by the Metzler Foundation click here):

You have already worked on Galápagos in a nature conservation project – why did you attend the Frankfurt Spring School?

My PhD thesis on “Life History Strategies and Population Dynamics in Galápagos Sea Lions” at the University of Bielefeld in collaboration with the Galápagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation was linked to a research project on Galápagos. The goal was to facilitate future decisions in nature conservation management in Galápagos. My first field season in Galápagos was adventurous: our research material had been lost somewhere on the journey and arrived only three days later, and living with three assistants on an island the size of two soccer fields also brought some complications along. More experience in strategic planning, in dealing with employees as well as in communications and public relations would have made my start a lot smoother. Of course, I’ve learned a lot over the years – learning by doing – but on some topics it helps if you get tips and tricks from experts beforehand. Today, I know how important it is to be able to write good project applications, have strategic development and business plans, and handle finances and budgets appropriately.

What did you expect from this course and what was your highlight?

The four weeks were some of the best and most instructive in my entire academic career – it was inspiring, hands-on and I got insights that I wish I had received years ago. There were many highlights. The welcome speech by the FZS Director Dr. Christof Schenck was impressive. He showed very clearly that we have to act now, if we want to leave a livable planet for the next generation. The project planning training with Martin Davies and Nick Folkard was also remarkable. Being trained by people who have already raised millions in conservation funding around the world is very helpful. On top of theoretical knowledge we always had a direct link to real projects: six early career conservationists from across the globe participated in the Spring School as well. Besides attending the course, they developed a funding proposal for a conservation project in their home countries. Having had these international scholars of the KfW Foundation was very useful and something that I will continue to benefit from in the future. Workshops on social skills and leadership have given me new insights, which I was able to implement immediately after the Spring School in my research on Galápagos. Last but not least, during the four weeks, friendships and a network were created that I would not want to do without anymore. All this has made the Spring School to what it was – unique four weeks that I would like to experience again.

Why did you apply for the position of the Spring School Coordinator? On which aspects do you want  to focus?

After this year’s Spring School, I was inspired, motivated, and grateful that I was able to spend such an instructive time with such great people. Now, I want to make sure that other future conservation project leaders can make the same great experience. I fully support the concept and want to continue and further improve the Spring School. As an alumnus I am also interested in building a Spring School alumni network that will grow each year. A strong professional network is essential for successful nature conservation – together we can always achieve more than alone.

Thus, I am really looking forward to the Frankfurt Spring School 2020 and to meet the new generation of nature conservationists. Don´t hesitate to drop an email at info@frankfurtspringschool.de if you have any questions – I am always happy to help!