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Postgraduate Profiles

Matthew Dixon

MSc Environmental Impact Assessment and Management, University of Manchester

Matthew DixonAs with most masters, the course at Manchester is split up into three semesters over a full 12 month period. This course was taught rather than research led with 2/3 semesters consisting of lectures and related coursework with the final semester being based upon the completion of a 15,000 word dissertation.

The core modules were E.I.A, S.E.A, Planning for Environmental Change, Environmental Law, Environmental Science, Appraisal and Audit, E.I.A Project and one chosen module from a selection of related modules form other courses. I chose Geographic Information Systems (GIS), based upon the frequency of use of G.I.S within the majority of environmental consultancies.

The modules provided me with a solid grounding in a variety of topics that are not only specific to environmental consultancy but have also provided me with a greater understanding of why E.I.A/S.E.A is necessary. This information has been extremely valuable as there is a great deal of variety within the working environment of environmental consultancy and having this wider understanding has meant that I could better assess which positions would appeal more.

In my opinion, the main benefit from my course was the variety of teaching and assessment methods. The university lecturers are leaders in their respective fields and brought in a number of guest lecturers who work within the environment field. These lecturers were invaluable as they provided up-to-date experiences and moved your understanding from the academic work into a practical context. This was extremely beneficial as frequently there is conflict between learning how the process could be undertaken and then realising the barriers that are present in the working environment.

The course leader was very helpful in the search for work by passing on information regarding contacts for potential work placements to current and former students of the course. The course has been established for some time which means that within the North West, there are a considerable number of consultancies that have either been educated through or have had frequent experience with the staff that runs the course. This provided me with the relevant contacts that eventually lead to my first two work experience placements. The current situation within the environmental consultancy work has made it hard for recent graduates to get their feet on the career ladder. I am grateful that this course provided me with the relevant education and contacts for employment.

Finally, I am also considering moving to Canada to continue my career. My course leader was able to provide two extremely useful contacts who have been able to advise me on the differences on approaches between the UK and Canada and also put me in contact with a selection of consultancies over there.


Kathryn Ross

PhD studying the ecological effects of climate change in the intertidal habitats, Bournemouth University

Kathryn RossAfter completing my masters in Environmental Technology at Imperial College, I began my PhD at Bournemouth University studying the ecological effects of climate change in the intertidal habitats. In particular my project focuses on birds feeding in intertidal habitats over the winter, the invertebrate organisms they feed on, and how they will be affected by rising sea levels. This will help to inform future coastal management strategies to ensure that the Poole Harbour Special Protection Area continues to be able to support internationally important species of wader and wildfowl in the future.

My experience so far has been hugely enjoyable - my project allows for a good mixture of fieldwork, labwork and computer modelling. The fieldwork (at the idyllic sites of Brownsea Island, and the RSPB reserve at Arne) involves periodically collecting samples of intertidal sediment - either by boat or hovercraft - and observational studies of bird feeding behaviour throughout winter. The labwork involves identifying the species present in my sediment samples and quantifying biomass available for birds. The modelling work involves using hydrodynamic models of Poole Harbour developed by H.R. Wallingford (who are part funding my PhD), to predict how sea level rise will affect the tidal flow dynamics of the harbour, and the knock-on effects for the benthic invertebrates and the birds feeding on them. I have three supervisors, two based at Bournemouth University and one based at H.R. Wallingford, each with specific areas of expertise relevant to my project, and all of whom are very supportive and helpful.

Dorset is really the ideal spot for an ecology graduate student, as there are so many areas of natural beauty and opportunities to get involved with ecological work. In addition to my studies I am training as a bird ringer with the BTO. This has helped to improve my knowledge of aspects of avian biology. I am also a qualified diver and involved with the SeaSearch project - surveying the marine life at many sites around the Dorset coast.