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Field Studies Instructor

Age: 23

Organisation: PGL Travel Ltd

Gemma Lewry

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

I decided that I want to work in the ecology/conservation sector late in my education when I was in college. Part of my course was a module in conservation and environmental management that I loved and decided this was the career I wanted.

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

I studied a National Diploma in Animal Management and at 17 I completed 5 weeks work experience with the National Trust. In September 2008 I started a degree in Conservation Biology, BSc (Hons), at the University of Plymouth. Here I studied a huge range of modules and had the opportunity to carry out field work in several countries including Mexico and Borneo. I was a committed volunteer with the University’s Volunteers department; I also played a major part in the reforming of the Plymouth regional branch of the British Science Association, a charity dedicated to communicating science to the public, especially children. After completing my degree in 2011 I joined the field studies department of PGL Travel Ltd, teaching students aged 8-18 outside the classroom. I work within a team to deliver a range of subjects from map skills to river studies for a range of ages from key stage two to higher education level. Every day is different and no lesson is the same when working in an outdoor environment. PGL is a seasonal job so it means for 2 months every winter I am able to travel. In 2012, I was lucky enough to travel to New Zealand where I undertook a role as a field trip demonstrator with the University of Victoria in Wellington. I worked on a two week field trip teaching undergraduate students.

How long have you been in your current role?

2+ years

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

Each day is different. Some days you may be taking A level students to the beach to teach them about marine zonation, other days you could be teaching primary school classes how to read maps. Your main responsibility is to present the lesson in a fun and interactive way. You are responsible for the safety of the guests in your lesson and it is important that you make sure each lesson is tailored to the group’s needs so you are always communicating with teachers and group leaders.

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

In this role you need to have excellent communication skills, these skills need to be adapted so that you can effectively communicate with children, teens and adults. As well as being a confident speaker it is important to be flexible and be able to think on your feet. Working in the outdoors you can never predict the weather, or the other elements around you, so you must be able to adapt your teaching for anything that may happen.

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

The most rewarding part of my job is watching the students thrive when learning in the outdoors. As our teaching is all interactive it’s rewarding to see the students get involved in experiments and understand their purpose and how they work. The most challenging part of the job is the weather. You have to work hard to maintain student’s enthusiasm when it’s cold or pouring down with rain. Enthusiasm is the key to this.

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

I have gained a huge amount of experience in environmental education, working with so many age ranges and abilities. I hope to develop this by becoming an Environment Education Officer with a major conservation charity. I have a huge passion for teaching in the outdoors and hope to inspire future generations to take a career in the environmental sector.

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

I would say that volunteering is one of the most important things you can do. It’s completely free and will provide you with a plethora of experience that looks great on any CV. Plus it helps you gain lots of important contacts in the industry.