Part I explored the many routes down which it is possible to go if you want a career with some kind of ecological sway. In Part II we look at five young ecologists and the paths they have taken to date as they forge a career in ecology. You will quickly see just how many options and routes there are, and what possibilities may lie ahead; read and be inspired!
Tim Jones (25)
Currently role: Ecological Clerk of Works
“My career in Ecology began properly when I moved to York to go to university. Once I moved to the area I made a lot of effort to get to know local birders, mainly as I didn’t have a car to go birding further afield than the University campus! This lead me to meeting a Senior Ornithologist at a local consultancy and being offered some bird surveys the following spring. This continued, and throughout my time at University I built a vast experience of a wide variety of bird surveys mainly doing pre-construction surveys at wind farm sites. At the same time I also started visiting Spurn Bird Observatory a lot and quickly fell in love with the place. When I graduated from University in 2013 I volunteered at the Obs through the autumn whilst still doing bird surveys. I then returned for a full season at Spurn in 2014 and secured some extra work with the RSPB, through contacts I’d made at the Obs, protecting a Montagu’s Harrier nest. Throughout this time I carried on doing the bird surveys and varied work at the Observatory from April to November. In 2015 I volunteered in Israel at the IBRCE for 2 months in the spring before returning to the UK to work as an assistant warden for the RSPB. Unfortunately this didn’t work out as it was only 2 days a week, but I then moved to south-west Scotland, to work as an Ecological Clerk of Works at the largest windfarm being constructed in Europe. Having now set up my own company, White Rose Ecology, the next stage of my Ecology career awaits!”
Anthony Lambert (23)
Current role: Farm Experience Assistant at Sacrewell Farm
“A passion for nature and wildlife was fostered during my early years. I spent my free time visiting zoos, natural history museums, nature reserves, watching documentaries and reading natural history books. This fuelled my desire to work in the conservation sector, leading to my enrolment on a BSc Zoology with Conservation degree at Bangor University. I achieved a first class degree with a range of experience including residential field trips and laboratory work.
Since graduating I have 20 months voluntary experience in conservation management. Comprising 8 months as a volunteer on biweekly active conservation work parties with Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust in addition to 12 months as a Conservation Trainee with Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust. At the conclusion of my contract with BBOWT I attained a permanent, paid position at Sacrewell Farm.
I decided whilst at university to take a trip to Zimbabwe and volunteer at a wildlife orphanage. Numerous employers at interview, whilst interested in this, have put a greater emphasis on volunteering in the UK with native species. So whilst I loved travelling and would thoroughly recommend it if you have the funds, if you want to work in UK conservation then get the experience here! I cannot stress the value of volunteering enough. The volunteering work that I undertook with Northamptonshire Wildlife trust was instrumental in gaining the Conservation Traineeship with BBOWT. My bosses stressed that it was the dedication to volunteering – going as regularly as my lifestyle afforded – rather than the overall amount of days. I gained experience leading volunteer groups, using a selection of power tools and gained qualifications in First Aid and chainsawing. These skills enabled me to gain the position with Sacrewell.”
Ruth Molloy (29)
Current role: Wildlife Ranger
“I currently work as a Wildlife Ranger in the Scottish Highlands. The title of Ranger covers all manner of tasks and that is one reason why I love it; everyday is different. Just today I found myself trapping one of our captive wildcats (so he can be moved to another breeding programme) before tending to our tree nursery and later checking the camera traps.
However, I predominantly work as a guide, taking groups of adults and children to a variety of beautiful locations around the Highlands. Some days my “office” could be the west coast where I search for otters and eagles, the next I could be exploring a fragment of Caledonian pinewood.
My fascination with the natural world began as a child and ultimately led me to study Zoology at Newcastle University. After graduating, I volunteered on several ecology-based projects both locally and overseas before landing a seasonal job on the Isle of Mull, working as a guide onboard whale and wildlife watching vessels. I was privileged to share some incredible marine encounters with many different people and became thoroughly addicted; one season quickly developed into five! As well as being responsible for collecting sightings data and undertaking photo-identification I also got to work alongside leading scientists on several research projects including the satellite-tagging of basking sharks.
All this seasonal work begs the question “What do you do in the winter?”. Well, I certainly endeavour to keep busy. Between my summers on Mull I spent two winters at the University of Glasgow where I learnt more about our oceans by studying a part-time masters in Marine Ecology. I have also used the off-season to travel, volunteer on ecological surveys and I have even followed the Sun to New Zealand, guiding on cetacean and albatross trips from Kaikoura.”
Dan Rouse (19)
Current role: Learning Assistant at Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)
“My role primarily in the conservation sector is to educate the public and the future generation of birders and ecologists, my passion lies with data collection and field work. I do regular surveys on the Burry Inlet in Carmarthenshire, this site is vital for certain species such as Oystercatcher, Pintail and Greenshank. This summer, I am living on Ramsey Island to do the Manx Shearwater and Seabird census, my heart truly lies with Waders and Seabirds. I have got to where I am by mainly volunteering and networking.
At the age on 17, I volunteered for the WWT in Llanelli (2014-2015) and a year later they offered me a Learning Assistant Job, I still volunteer on the side since it’s a great way to gain the skills needed for the career you want without the pressure of learning on the job, having anxiety and finding out the best way of working was vital in my progression within the conservation sector. I am one of the few who don’t have a degree, the advanced education route was never for me since I’m more of a physical learner and prefer to learn from experience instead of from lectures and books.
I’m an outdoors girl and love to be out surveying or collecting data. I want my career to progress in this route and I’m currently working on that by doing my census role on Ramsey Island, and looking into what other opportunities there are for me and how I can tie in my love for waders and seabirds. There is nothing more important to me than conserving species.”
Ashleigh Wylie (24)
Current role: Consultant Ecologist
“I have been interested in wildlife and the environment from a young age, and so the decision to study Zoology at University was a relatively easy one. As part of my degree, I was chosen to take part in the work placement programme, whereby students spend time within the industry, gaining knowledge and developing skills within the workplace environment. I wasn’t entirely sure on the route I wanted to take within the ecology industry so decided to apply to companies that I thought I could learn the most from. I applied to, and was lucky enough to get, an the opportunity to spent 10 months working with MacArthur Green, an environmental consultancy based in Glasgow.
During my placement, I got the chance to experience what it was like working in a busy ecology consultancy. I got the opportunity to shadow on a number of ecology and ornithology surveys, and was trained by my colleagues in how to survey for various species following best practice guidance, what to look for and how to collect the data. I also got experience in entering data, writing reports and dealing with some administration tasks, such as finance and office support. I was lucky enough to be a finalist for the Academic Award at the Young Professional Green Energy Awards in 2015 for the work I did on my placement and received the Professor Rob Smith Prize at University for the best work placement student.
After completing my degree, I returned to MacArthur Green as a Graduate Ecologist where I had the chance to continue the work I had been doing during my placement, and develop further skills. I currently undertake surveys for protected species, including bats, badgers, otters, water vole and pine marten. I also write associated technical protected species reports, and draft Species Protection and Breeding Bird Protection Plans. I am also currently being trained in bat call analysis.
The work that I did on my work placement allowed me to develop skills that I was able to transfer to my final year at University and to other tasks I have undertaken since. I found it a great way to develop some of the skills I needed for a job within the environmental consultancy sector.”
In Part III we will look at how and where you can get the experience and opportunities to further your chances of getting your dream job.