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Graduate Ecologist

Age: 23

Organisation: URS Infrastructure & Environment UK Limited

Conor Reid - Graduate Ecologist


Why did you decide on a career in ecology/environmental management, and when did you decide?

From a young age I knew I wanted to work in the environmental sector as I have always had an interest in the environment and wanted a job that reflected that passion.

How did you get started in the sector?  What qualifications and experience did you have? Have you gained any additional qualifications since?

I tailored my experience from a young age and began volunteering aged 12, as a grounds keeper with the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. After completing my A-levels in Biology, Geography and Geology I took a volunteer placement in Tanzania, gaining a BTEC qualification in Tropical Habitat Management. Following my summer placement, I began my Degree in Conservation Biology (BSc) at the University of Plymouth where I gained a broad knowledge base. While studying, I gained valuable volunteer experience with Volunteering in Plymouth (ViP) and other organisations. Through my volunteer work I gained a Research Assistant Internship with Ambios at the Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Science. Wishing to further my knowledge, experience and improve my ecological credentials, I enrolled in an MSc in Applied Ecology at the University of Exeter. Here I really honed my experience in plant identification and ecological consultancy work, allowing me to mould my environmental education background into more of a vocational career. I gained a position as an Ecologist at the large multidisciplinary consultancy firm of URS Ltd. Here I have rapidly gained further experience in species and habitat survey work and report writing, working across a range of disciplines in a busy office and directly with external clients.

How long have you been in your current role?

8 months

What does a typical day involve? What are your responsibilities?

There is no typical day, which is one of the best aspects about the job. I could be surveying for fresh water pearl mussels in the west of Ireland one day and doing a bat survey in Belfast the next. My role therefore includes assisting with ecological surveys, such as protected and invasive species and drafting survey reports for the client.

What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have?

A broad understanding of ecology and experience in survey techniques is essential along with how this interacts with policy and legislation. The survey experience which I developed through volunteering has been essential to reach my current position.

Describe the aspects of your job you find particularly rewarding and those you find challenging?

Some projects can get quite complicated with many ecological constraints to address and numerous stakeholders to consult with. I find it rewarding to develop solutions that adhere to ecological constraints but also satisfy the

Describe your career progression so far and any plans you have for the future

I truly hit the ground running from day one in the role and have gained invaluable experience along the way; I have begun to work more independently and I am now working directly with clients. I hope to continue to develop my career and become a full CIEEM member within the next few years.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the sector?

I think broad experience in survey techniques is key when trying to break into the environmental sector. This can be gained through volunteering, internships and placements. I found that these allow you to network within the sector and this can lead to further opportunities.