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A career in ecological consultancy

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Hello! Amy here, I am an assistant ecologist at Bagshaw Ecology. I have spent the past year working part time, discovering what it takes to become an ecological consultant in the UK.

Ever since I was a child, the natural world has fascinated me. I did not spend my childhood cooped up inside on Facebook but could usually be found trying to catch moths or collecting snails in a jar (much to my mother’s horror). Growing up in the Pennines was the perfect setting to nurture my love of all things furry, fluttery or feathery and inspired me to study a BSc in Wildlife Biology at University. I’ll be honest; I didn’t really have a clue what career I wanted to go into at the end of this and spent the following three years dodging the inevitable question “what do you want to do when you grow up?”

Despite this, I really enjoyed my time at Manchester Metropolitan, particularly the six weeks I spent in Kenya studying rhinos for my dissertation. During my final year I realised I needed to start seriously considering what I was going to do when I finished, and since paid careers chasing rhinos across the Serengeti are rare, I needed to get some more experience with UK wildlife. I spent some time volunteering with the National Trust reliving my childhood conducting butterfly surveys (If you fancy trying your hand at surveying some wildlife, then these are the best! Just go out in pleasant sunny weather between 10:45 and 3:45 and try to spot as many butterflies as you can).

I was lucky enough to discover Bagshaw Ecology in Hebden Bridge, just around the corner from my house and started helping David on dusk bat surveys a few evenings a week. These usually require two people so that we can watch all aspects of a building for emerging bats. I also learnt to use a bat detector, which works by mixing the ultrasonic call bats make with a high frequency oscillator to produce a sound at a frequency we can hear and allowing us to differentiate between different bat species. At first, I found it difficult to tell them apart but soon realised they all sound very different, from the popping call of the Pipistrelle to the quick fire machine gun sound made by myotis bats. Using a bat detector really is like listening in on a secret conservation you had no idea was going on.

Every week is different as an ecologist, from climbing around in lofts checking for signs of bats to being out in the field conducting phase 1 habitat surveys, rain or shine. This makes it extremely rewarding and I feel I am learning on the go all the time. Although I still have a long way to go towards becoming a full Ecological Consultant, the experience I have gained at Bagshaw Ecology has been invaluable and I’m no longer dodging that dreaded question! With spring approaching, and the beginning of bat survey season in May, I’m looking forward to testing out my skills and learning to identify all out beautiful native flora.