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My career journey Laura Henderson

Dr Laura Henderson, principal ecologist at Mott MacDonald shares how her career has developed.

the environmental side of the company has grown enormously.

My passion for ecology started as a seven-year-old when looking at a book about ponds! The illustration on the front cover showed a fascinating underwater world which has driven my career ever since. Following a degree in ecology and a PhD in freshwater ecology, I worked for the Environment Agency before joining Mott MacDonald in 1997 as a senior ecologist. At the time, I knew nothing about Mott MacDonald, other than this was a large engineering company. What I discovered was a company where ideas are always encouraged and staff can really drive their own career forward. Of course, since then the environmental side of the company has grown enormously. In 1997, I was the only ecologist and was brought in to work on a large water company scheme. Now in 2017, I am the ecology and biodiversity practice leader for a global community of ecologists in Mott MacDonald with 250 members.

Coming from an academic background, I had to quickly understand environmental and engineering aspects of large infrastructure schemes, focusing on delivering ecological solutions that reduce the environmental impacts of engineering projects. My work over the years has included numerous freshwater and other ecology assessments on many interesting sites (including river abstraction schemes, flood defence, water pipeline construction, wastewater treatment plants and transport development schemes), being a visiting Water Framework Directive expert in Romania and secondments into other organisations (such as local councils) to provide ecological advice. I have also undertaken numerous environmental assessments and public consultations covering a range of ecological issues.

As my career developed, I moved more into coordination and management of those ecological assessments. Today I am principal ecologist and ecology team leader for the environment division with direct responsibility for 30 staff and am ecology and biodiversity practice leader, a global role in Mott MacDonald. My passion for ecology has never left me, indeed I don’t think you can do this job if you don’t have that. Mott MacDonald has given me the chance to work on some amazing projects and to feel that I can make a difference from an environmental point of view. There are interesting challenges every day, with no two days the same and this makes for a great working environment.

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