Life as a National Red List Intern

Fresh out of University, and with an interest in using science to improve decision making within conservation, I was lucky enough to be offered a 6 month position as an intern working on the National Red List project based in the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society of London.

The first few weeks of my internship were focussed around getting to grips with the database and the software involved in uploading species assessments, as well as day to day life at ZSL and in London – slightly overwhelming but none the less exciting!

50 Years of the Red List event

The uploading of assessments onto our species database is one of the key parts of the internship – it’s effectively the backbone to the project to ensure we maintain a centralised online hub as a reference point for all countries on National Red Listing. When I arrived, there was a large backlog of assessments to work through, which has continued to keep me busy throughout my time here – but getting through over 41,000 uploads has at least made a substantial dent in the backlog. My aim is to at least reach the 50,000 mark before the end of my internship! As not all National Red Lists are available in excel format, lots of time is spent dedicated to pulling out the information from PDFs or even paper copies of the Red Lists, which often also involves translating them into English first (I now know how to say “National Red List” in numerous languages…).

Updating the database is by no means my only task as an intern. I’ve also been fortunate to be involved in the production of various reports for the National Red List project and its progress. This included one for the recent Convention on Biological Diversity COP 12 held in Korea in October, which was really well received – it’s a great feeling to see the importance of National Red Lists increasingly recognised and to know I’ve been a (very small) part of that. Some of the information from the report was used in the ZSL Science & Conservation event on “50 years of Red List: past, present and future” (see here.), which was hugely popular with over 300 people attending. I also help maintain other parts of the website, and the twitter account @nationalredlist – follow us for updates on our work!


Cuddles with the goats!

Being based at ZSL also brings many non-National Red List related advantages. I work alongside staff, students and other interns all doing something different and regular talks at the Institute of Zoology ensure that I am fully submerged in the world of research – a very exciting position to be in as someone new to the field of conservation! Interns are treated as equals to everyone else within the Institute and we’re encouraged to attend as many meetings, lectures and social events as possible, providing a lot of networking opportunities and the chance to explore future career options. Just as importantly, I also get to spend my lunch break wandering round the zoo, watching the rapidly growing tiger cubs, cuddling the goats and visiting my personal favourites, Nicky and Thug the pygmy hippos.

Each internship lasts for 6 months, and I’ve got just under a month left to go. I’ve loved every second of it, and have gained so much more than I could’ve imagined from both the National Red List project and life at ZSL. I’ll be very sad to leave, but I hope that one day I’ll have the opportunity to come back to ZSL, and I have no doubt that I’ll be able to watch National Red Listing become increasingly recognised as an important conservation tool in decision making.



Eve Englefield is a Zoology graduate from Newcastle University and has been the National Red List intern at the Zoological Society of London from July – December 2014.