This image shows a man standing in a field of heather. There are two women in the background. They are all wearing coats, gloves and hats. The man is smiling and giving two thumbs up.

Jack Walker

One of the best things about my Masters is that I’ve been able to tailor it to my interests. I wanted to focus on gaining practical knowledge and skills, though I’ve also studied some really useful theoretical modules, like Advanced Statistics and GIS (mapping software).

Being close to three National Parks was another attraction of the course at Leeds. On one module we spent five days in the Yorkshire Dales with National Trust staff, learning how they worked with farmers and landowners, and how they improved biodiversity by their land management. 

My summer project is working on the Leeds–Liverpool Canal. I wanted to study an urban setting, as that’s the environment most of us now live in, and there’s more and more evidence about how important green spaces are for people’s wellbeing. My project is exploring how water pollution affects diversity of invertebrates. I take two daily samples from the canal and in the lab I identify the species from the sample and colleagues in the School of Geography analyse the water chemistry. I’ll only draw conclusions from the research when I have all the data but I can see trends emerging. Of course, species get more diverse as you move further from the city centre, but it’s surprised me how much diversity there is within just a few miles. My final report will provide the Canal and River Trust with valuable data about species and pollutants.

I’ve gained lots of practical skills like species identification (plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates), which will be directly useful in a job and I've built on research skills I already had from my undergraduate zoology degree. I’ve also learned about habitat management from volunteering at a local nature reserve. 

I started off with no clue about what I wanted to do! Now I know I really want to work outdoors, with wildlife and people. Working with the public is very important in any conservation field, so it's been really good to do the project on the canal and answer people's questions. Mostly they appreciate that I'm doing something that’s benefiting their surroundings.