A photo of Maya Baker, a student of Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Leeds.

Maya Baker

Why did you choose Leeds for your course? 

With a limited number of Masters courses dedicated to this field, I felt Leeds offered the best variety of modules, complementing my Ecology degree from the University of East Anglia. The emphasis on practical skills, essential for a career in conservation, particularly appealed to me. The wider academic reputation of the university, and having met alumni whilst volunteering, further confirmed my decision. Also, attending Leeds has meant I can commute from home, giving me the opportunity to continue in education.

Do you have any wider opportunities on your course – for example the opportunity to undertake fieldwork?

There has been lots of opportunity for fieldwork throughout the course, as well as a chance to meet academics, experts and professionals from a variety of backgrounds. I’m enrolled on the Mediterranean Field Ecology module, which is a great opportunity to investigate ecology in a different landscape whilst developing key field work skills.

Tell us a bit about your Masters research project – what does this entail? 

There is scope to tailor projects to personal interests, with many different fields of expertise within the department, and through external connections. Working alongside the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, my project is based on the conservation of the Burnt Orchid.

What skills and experiences have you gained from your Masters so far?

Not only building on the academic skills I gained during my undergraduate degree, I have also been able to develop a variety of new practical skills. Something I wanted to concentrate on was improving my identification and survey skills, really important for any job in ecology and conservation.

What academic facilities do you use as part of your Masters?

The course is a balance of lectures alongside fieldwork, lab and computer sessions. For assignments, I make use of the library facilities, either independently or for group work. These facilities are particularly useful as a commuter, because depending on transport I am often on campus much earlier, as well as after, my scheduled lectures.

Have you taken on any other roles or been involved in anything alongside your studies whilst at the University?

I commute in to Leeds, which unfortunately limits my involvement in societies. I also spent the year prior to the course gaining experience as a Reserves Trainee for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which has allowed me to primarily concentrate on my studies this year.

What advice would you give to people considering Masters study?

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue learning, but wasn’t completely sure a Masters was for me. Now I’m over halfway through the course, and whilst it’s been a lot of hard work, I’ve met some amazing people and learnt a lot. It is really important to start thinking about how you want to use your Masters going forward. The variety of modules means you can choose ones which suit your interests and bridge key skills gaps. During the year prior to my Masters, I was a Reserves Trainee with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which refined my interests and gave me an idea of the skills I wanted to learn during the course. I used this experience to inform my module choices, which has allowed me to strengthen my CV even further.

What has been the highlight of studying at Leeds so far? 

The breadth of modules means there is a new challenge each week, making it difficult to pick a highlight! Alongside studying, I have really enjoyed meeting new people, from a diverse range of backgrounds.

How do you think our students benefit from the University’s connections with industry / business leaders and alumni?

There have been several talks from both alumni and professionals, which give an insight into the field. The most common piece of advice seems to be that gaining experience alongside your masters is vital, and hearing it from people who have been in a similar position is invaluable.

What do you think it is about the University that makes it special?

A combination of the academic environment, campus atmosphere, and placement within the city, makes Leeds an exciting and unique place to study.