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BSc (Hons) Wildlife Ecology and ConservationĀ graduate

My original degree was in Graphic Design at the University of the West of England in Bristol and that lead to a successful career as a graphic designer with ITV and later GMTV for nearly twenty years. After that, and with rapidly changing technology, I felt like I really needed a change. I had always had a strong interest in wildlife and the countryside and I researched the possibility of returning to college and re-training. I looked at various colleges and universities and after reading about Sparsholt, I made an appointment to meet one of the lecturers back in the winter of 2004.

I was immediately impressed by the location and very much inspired by meeting Andy Quayle, the course tutor (with whom we shared a particular interest in herpetology). After being shown around and meeting other members of staff, I felt fairly certain that I had found the right course for me – Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. As Hampshire is my home county, I was delighted to have the opportunity to study wildlife and conservation, in such a rich and varied landscape which I have grown to love.

I really enjoyed being with other students who shared a similar interest and with the encouragement of the various lecturers, I was able to gradually re-enter the world of academia and get used to taking notes in class, research material and take exams after nearly twenty years.

To begin with, this was a terrifying prospect, which was made much easier with the excellent staff and facilities, especially the library. After graduating in the summer of 2012, I was very fortunate to be offered a short term contract with Natural England, based in Winchester. This is my first ā€˜professionalā€™ post in the world of ecology and I love every minute of it. Most of the projects I am currently working on are Higher Level Stewardship agreements and also regular site visits to undertake site assessments/botanical surveys.

Now that I am employed in conservation, on reflection, I think going to Sparsholt was probably the best decision I ever made. The course broadened my view of conservation on a global scale and introduced me to many aspects which I would not have considered previously. As well as teaching me how to research assignments well, I also learnt to write precisely and accurately within a specified time schedule, ultimately leading to my dissertation which I particularly enjoyed. My project researched why particular Primulas were chosen for egg-laying by the Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Research was undertaken over three years on two different habitat types. I hope that some of my research will help in the conservation of this endangered species and I plan to publish some of my results in 2013.

Part of the course was undertaken on work experience (in my case with the National Trust), which was a superb opportunity to understand how a conservation organisation works. Another great part of being at Sparsholt was noticing the gradual change in the quality my work and now that I have left, I never thought that I would miss researching and writing assignments! I had some great help and advice on the production of my CV and on leaving, I felt very well prepared to enter the world of professional ecology.

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