Scottish Forestry’s Eilidh Malcolm used to spend her days surrounded by marine life. Then a career in the woods came calling. 

GROWING up in Scotland’s largest city, Eilidh Malcolm had never really considered a career in forestry. In fact, she first opted for a life in rather wetter surroundings. 

But after helping to establish Sea Life Loch Lomond, a career in the woods soon came calling for the former aquarist. 

“I started to realise I was passionate about engagement, getting people outdoors and into the natural world, especially for those who are living in urban areas,” the Glasgow native said. 

Now education programme manager for Scottish Forestry, she initially spent time as an agri environment surveyor – surveying rural stewardship, and organic farms for flora and fauna – and was also a project officer with Froglife after leaving the aquarium. In 2012, she took her first steps into the sector, joining the Woodland Trust and the then Forestry Commission Scotland as woodland learning and community officer. 

“The forestry side of work was part of a project in a previous job,” the 39-year-old said.

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“When I started to find out about the engagement projects forestry was offering I just knew it was a sector I wanted to work in.”

That led Eilidh to Scottish Forestry, where she’s now responsible for Outdoor and Woodland Learning (OWL) Scotland.

Working with 15 groups across the country as part of efforts to deliver Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019–2029, she coordinates the network, as well as acting as a main point of contact and support, and organising national networking events. 

Eilidh added: “Coming out of the pandemic it’s been great to see groups getting together face-to-face, back out enjoying woodlands – learning and working on projects.”

Now based in and around her home city, Eilidh is driven to work with those who have less opportunity to engage with nature.

She said: “I think the last few years have really brought home for many people a realisation of the importance of getting outside for our health and wellbeing. You can see that people treasure it even more because of the experiences of lockdown and restrictions.

“That’s even more acute in our cities, and we have to ensure that, no matter where you grow up, you have access to woodland and forests.

“We are lucky in Scotland that even in our big cities there are green spaces close by for people to take advantage of.

“I love being able to bring people together and get them enthusiastic about taking care of our forests in Scotland – it’s really energising.”

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Working on the new Junior Forester Award has been a stand-out recent project for Eilidh.

It gives children and young people an insight into a career in forestry as well as the practical ability to assist in woodland management in their schools and local communities.

She added: “The award is another way to build transferable skills in young people, and even if they don’t go into forestry as a career, they will always have knowledge about caring for the natural world.”

Eilidh – who oversees the schools and early years categories of the Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards – says the diversity of the people who work in the sector is one of the aspects of the job she really enjoys.

She said: “There is such a mix of backgrounds of people; it’s so interesting hearing about everyone’s different experiences and how they found their way into forestry.

Forestry Journal: Scottish Forestry’s Eilidh MalcolmScottish Forestry’s Eilidh Malcolm (Image: PR)

“I have colleagues who have worked up from apprenticeships or moved over at various stages in their careers from sectors like finance. One of the best chainsaw operators I worked with was an ex-beauty therapist.

“There are so many paths and opportunities across forestry, I’d urge anyone who’s interested to find out more.”

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