Staff Spotlight: Rachel Daniels

Madagascar Country Manager
After completing a Masters in Biology, Rachel was luckily enough to join the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute as a research assistant in the Panama rainforest for 3 months. This experience reinforced Rachel's desire to continue in the field of biology and conservation, and she has now been working with Operation Wallacea since 2010. Rachel's role as country manager has seen her travel to Indonesia, Peru and Madagascar ensuring the research expeditions at these sites are running smoothly.

What is your favorite travel memory?

taking photos at sunset

Waking up for the first time in the middle of the Amazon rainforest was something truly magical, hearing the roar of howler monkeys, the birds morning chorus, and dolphins splashing the in the river.

Stepping out from my small cabin, on the boats we now called home for the next few months, I couldn't believe the spectacular views. The river water was so calm that it perfectly reflected the forest edge and the clouds above, and now I understand why the area we were in was called the "Land of Mirrors".

There was never day that went by where I didn't see something new or exciting, whether it was a baby sloth clinging to its mum, a monk saki monkey for the first time, catching a royal fly-catcher in the mist net or spotting fresh jaguar tracks on the transect.

Watching new volunteers experience what I did for the first time never gets old, watching their faces as they step into the jungle for the first time always fills me with joy.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Operation Wallacea was my first proper job after having graduated from university, so I was young, naive and still had a lot to learn about the world. Working for Operation Wallacea has truly opened my eyes, from seeing real life conservation and scientific research in action, experiencing new cultures, and working with people from all over the world.

If you told me 6 years ago that I would now be project managing the Madagascar expedition, overseeing the whole project I would never have believed it.

Having been a volunteer research assistant myself I wanted to make sure my job involved inspiring young budding scientists to pursue their dreams, so my aim every summer is to get students excited about nature and conservation.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would absolutely love to join our Guyana expedition , the pure remoteness of this expedition appeals to me. The fact it is a small research team and every few days you have to take down, move and rebuild the camp in a new survey area brings a sense of adventure.

The area is so remote that much of the wildlife has never experienced human contact, so the research teams have often encountered large mammals such as tapir and jaguar.

We are losing rainforest at an alarming rate, and so being able to work in one of the last areas of pristine rainforest would be amazing.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Operation Wallacea allows students to get hands on field research experience, work with academics from all over the world and see how conservation management projects can work in reality.

Expedition life can be hard, living in unfamiliar conditions, surrounded by a completely different environment and working extremely long hours, so what always impresses me is how the whole team always unites. Taking on any challenges that arise and always putting a smile on their face to make sure all the volunteers have the most fantastic experience.