With the first week of the 2018 Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management already behind us, we talked to two of our students, Claudia Hermes and Zsófia Puskás, to hear about why our students are here and what they’ve learnt so far.

What is your background prior to arriving at Spring School 2018?

Claudia: “I come from Freiburg, where I finished my PhD thesis last year, working on nature conservation in Ecuador.”

Zsófia: “I come from Vienna, I studied wildlife ecology and game management and finished my master thesis last year which was about wild boar population dynamics and management.”

What are your motivations for attending Spring School 2018? Is there anything in particular you’re hoping to gain?

Claudia: “I came to the Spring School to gain some insights into how a conservation project is actually run. So far, I have been involved in carrying out research on conservation problems, but I am wondering what all my scientific results are actually worth if they are not applied in an actual conservation project. I hope that the skills I am going to learn at the Spring School help me to set up practical projects to conserve biodiversity, which hopefully contribute to making a change.”

Zsófia: “I applied for the Spring School on Conservation Project Management, because I am motivated to do something for nature conservation. This Spring School is a great opportunity to be more competent and improve my chances to find a job in nature conservation.”

How did you find the first week of this year’s event?

Claudia: “The module on project planning was seriously great. Martin and Nick are great teachers. I sometimes came across things like problem trees and logical frameworks which I had never really understood before, and after this module I not only understand them, but I’m also able to create them myself!”

Zsófia: “This module made so much clearer what I have done wrong in the past because it has never been taught. I found it really great not just giving us the theory of “how to make it” but asking us to actively do the task in the real time. We challenged our minds to think logically and worked in a group to find out what the problems and solutions were. Learning by doing is the best practice anyway and I really enjoyed it.”


Thanks to Martin Davies, Nick Folkard and all of our students for a fantastic first week! After a well earned rest we’ll get right into week two.

With a combined half century of experience in conservation project management, planning and financing, Martin Davies and Nick Folkard are very much at home amongst the prestigious roster of our Spring School facilitators.

In his 37 years at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Martin became an expert in project planning and finance acquisition, utilising the “logical framework” approach to find success. His passion for teaching led him to start his own company dedicated to the training of aspiring conservationists.  During his career Martin frequently worked with Michael Brombacher, present day head of Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Europe department. It was this friendship that brought Martin to the 2017 Frankfurt Spring School, where he was rated highly by students for his enthusiasm and teaching style. Despite falling from a roof and breaking his leg just a month ago, there’s no stopping Martin, he’s back again this year.

Nick Folkard took the helm of the Project Development and Support Unit at the RSPB in 2003 and has since ensured the triumph of the society’s numerous international efforts. Like Martin, he loves to guide the next generation of conservation project managers through the maze of project planning. With his years of experience and two working legs, Nick’s contribution to this year’s Spring School is invaluable.

We’re already halfway through an intense four-day course in which Nick and Martin are getting our students hands on with the logical framework method of planning. They believe that engagement and teamwork are essential for a rich learning experience. With a wall of flash cards to drive discussion, it’s guaranteed that everyone’s ideas are shared and that nobody is snoozing in their seat by the end of the day.

When asked “What would you most like students to take away from their time with you at Frankfurt Spring School 2018?”, Martin said that in conservation, if you can be clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it, then you’re significantly more likely to find success. Clarity and succinctness are essential in influencing others and achieving the funding needed to execute your plan, and in turn will make getting support for the next project much easier.
Nick stresses that the logical framework is a wonderful tool but ultimately just a means to an end, not the end itself. In your work, it’s so important not to lose sight of the true end: the conservation. If you can keep that in mind, you’ll do just fine.

2017 saw the great success of the first ever Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management. 24 students and young researchers from various European nations, as well as six international KfW Foundation scholarship holders from Guyana, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru and Zimbabwe participated in the month-long event. A few of our students gave us their thoughts following graduation:

Katrin Hohwieler (Wien): The Conservation Project Management Spring School was a once in a lifetime experience for me. The four weeks were full of exciting topics, presented by people who have been working in the field and know what is important. It was incredibly well organized and if I could, I’d do it again!
Abhinaya Pathak (Nepal): It is the best platform to learn diverse subject matter efficiently in short time and in interactive ambiance from multiple stakeholders
Tessa Schardt (Frankfurt): I achieved the skills to bring my biological knowledge into the real world – putting practical use to a theoretical background, getting introduced to a very broad and complex topic via diverse approaches and different points of view.

With many speakers and partner organisations returning this year, as well as some new faces, we can’t wait to begin.

This weekend, 24 aspiring conservationists from around the globe will arrive for the 2018 Frankfurt Spring School on Conservation Project Management, a month-long series of talks, seminars, interactive group sessions and expeditions regarding the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the world of conservation.

Experts from world-leading conservation, biological and financial institutions and organisations will take to the stage, sharing their years of experiences from rich, diverse career histories with our Spring School students.

Throughout the month this blog will be regularly updated with stories about the Spring School proceedings and all those involved, both students and facilitators.

Join us for the 2018 Spring School adventure, it’s going to be an exciting one.