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Assistant Ecologist

Age: 23

Organisation: Parsons Brinckerhoff

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

From a young age I enjoyed learning about nature and wildlife, an interest which guided me towards completing a BSc in Ecology at university. It was not until recently, however, that I became interested in consultancy. Since pursuing a career in this sector, I have found it provides me with a perfect balance of practical field work, and mental stimulation in an office environment.

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

I initially entered into the world of consultancy by undertaking a Masters degree in Environmental Consultancy, which I chose because it provided me with the opportunity for a work placement within an environmental consultancy. This allowed me to network with ecologists and gain practical experience and hands-on knowledge of how a consultancy functions. I was fortunate enough to be offered a full time permanent position with my placement company. Prior to my Masters I had a range of experience, from practical ranger, to office-based internships with conservation NGO’s.  I also had experience volunteering with wildlife trusts, and surveying experience both in the UK and abroad. Since securing my position, I have completed a CIEEM course in developing Ecological Impact Assessment skills, which has been very valuable in assessing a site’s ecological value.

How long have you been in your current role?

I have been in my current role for 9 months, 6 months of which was my university placement.

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

My role is very varied, and I am presented with new challenges each day. My key responsibilities involve supporting the ecology team by undertaking surveys, analysing data, and writing reports. I also secure access to sites, produce maps and communicate with clients.

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

As a recent graduate you are not expected to have advanced ecological skills, but it is very important to have a strong willingness to learn and enthusiasm for the job. Having these traits, means that you can quickly build a repertoire of ecological knowledge and a basic understanding of consultancy. The job involves a lot of travelling during the summer season to carry out surveys starting before sunrise, and finishing after sunset, so you need stamina to put the necessary effort into your work.

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

The aspect of my job I most enjoy is that I am constantly learning. Each day I gain more knowledge: species identification; applying mitigation guidelines; calculating costs for a job. The role provides me with new and different challenges every day, communicating with a wide range of people and visiting different places. The variety keeps it interesting. The main challenges so far involve adapting to a corporate environment and fitting in with company procedures. Having had limited previous experience of work within a large company, it has taken some adjustment, but I feel it has been a smooth transition and I am now very comfortable within a large corporate setting.

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

My future career plans are very much focused on ecology. I would like to achieve a more senior ecologist position, and attain a range of protected species licences. Since beginning my career I have started to attain the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve this; I am already able to take charge of more complex tasks. I am also interested in the process surrounding ecological impact assessments, so hope to expand my knowledge of this in the future as well.

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

From my experience the best way to break into a career in ecological consulting is to get a placement position during the survey season. Your enthusiasm and willingness to learn will be recognised, and the skills you gain and contacts you make will stand you in excellent stead for future employment.