By Marie Dipple, Assistant Ecologist at Kent Wildlife Trust Consultancy Services
As Assistant Ecologist for the Kent Wildlife Consultancy Services, I was invited to the University of Birmingham’s Greener Prospects event to give a talk to students from the Life and Environmental Sciences about my career in conservation and now, ecology. Here is a rundown of the topics covered on the day and an insight into this exciting career journey.
I opened my talk at the University of Birmingham’s Greener Prospects event by giving students a picture of my career to date, which has at times seemed a little wild!
I did my master’s degree Biological Sciences, and this enabled me to apply for and successfully undertake roles in exciting conservation projects, that focused on both UK wildlife and Spanish wildlife. I spoke to the students about the skills I needed for these jobs, and also what these positions offered me for my career progression, showing how I’ve developed my skills, knowledge and confidence in areas such as: project management, species monitoring, practical habitat management, data collection and analysis, and communications and engagement.
The core of my talk focused on where I am now, working as an Assistant Ecologist for Kent Wildlife Trust Consultancy Services, based in Maidstone. I talked about what excited me about the job when I first saw the advert, and how it’s given me the opportunity to use my conservation background to look at sustainable approaches to development, infrastructure, industry and landscapes across Kent and the South East. It was great to speak about the role, a few of the key projects that we are currently involved with, and to explore how I’ve drawn on my wider experience in the work I am doing.
For example, my experience of conducting bird surveys throughout my career in conservation, both for wildlife trusts and as part of a PhD assistant role, allowed me to be involved with winter bird surveys for Heathrow airport, sub-contracted by Surrey Wildlife Trust. I have also conducted Phase 1 surveys for Ashford Borough Council, to inform their developments in several sites in Ashford, using the skills in Phase 1 habitat surveys that I gained during university modules, along with the species ID knowledge I acquired through later jobs.
The skills I have gained – in for example, survey techniques, species ID, report writing, client liaison as well as project planning – through previous employment and volunteer schemes, have also provided me with the insight and practical knowledge to carry out my role with the consultancy. In the future I also hope to be able to draw on my passion for marine environments and ornithology, and I hope to undertake training for protected species licences.
It was wonderful to conclude the talk by opening up a discussion to the students, encouraging them to ask questions about how they could get involved in ecology and/or wildlife trust consultancy services. The responses from students were incredibly positive, and I hope that I provided an interesting counterpoint to other more ‘direct’ lines into the field of ecology!
My message to the students was that variety, volunteering and finding your passion have been the most valuable and enjoyable parts of my career, and drawing together experiences from these different jobs has given me broad knowledge and skills which I apply every day at Kent Wildlife Trust consultancy services. It can be a daunting time for students as final year approaches, but accepting uncertainty is a whole lot easier if you immerse yourself in your subject by networking and seeking opportunities to ‘try it out’ before you graduate.
A career in life and environmental sciences can be hugely rewarding when you can actively contribute to protecting and enhancing the planet at a time when our environment is in crisis. Re-tracing my steps was incredibly rewarding, and on reflection, perhaps this path of mine might pave the way for others to follow.