A photo of Jack Carney, a Biodiversity and Conservation MSc student at the University of Leeds, sat outside with a book and a leaf.

Jack Carney

Why did you choose the University of Leeds?

I wanted to try a different university to my Bachelors degree but I wanted to stay in an academically prestigious one. One of the reasons I picked Leeds was due to its nomination as University of the Year 2017 by the Sunday Times; I had already heard great things from friends, but this really pinned it for me. Twinned with the interesting Conservation course too, Leeds was  perfect.

Leeds is also a wonderful city and has lots for students and for working people. I’m grateful to the people I met there and the experiences I had.

What did you enjoy about the course?

I enjoyed the diversity of teaching; from lectures and seminars to practicals and field courses, I really got a range of different method which helped bring across different ideas about the subject matter. At Masters level, I could tell everyone wanted to be there for the course content which made learning with my course mates much easier.

What were the highlights of the course?

As per usual, my highlight was a field course; a trip to Spain over Easter for a course in Mediterranean Ecology was really appreciated. Not only did I learn more about ecology in a new environment, but I carried out a very enjoyable group research project on flower-dwelling spiders and made a host of new friends. It was also nice getting some free time with lecturers as often that helps to make connections and shows you that lecturers are regular people like you!

What were the greatest challenges throughout your degree?

The interesting thing about this Masters was the flexibility of the modules that were offered. This meant that some periods were very busy while others were quiet. It was important to stay on track with workloads and be able to balance separate assignments at the same time. Another challenge was completing a summer project with a restricted level of supervision; our brilliant supervisor Chris Hassall had multiple project students this year and wasn’t able to visit us during our fieldwork in Dorset. However, he was supportive and made regular skype calls to us to make sure things were working well.

Did staff help you throughout your time at university? If so, how?

Yes, as previously mentioned, my project supervisor Chris was super helpful and understanding throughout our project time, giving both advice and time for our own suggestions. Most of my module coordinators were also understanding with their assignments and they were flexible with deadlines if necessary.

What have you been doing since finishing your studies?

Immediately after finishing, I came out to Vietnam to begin working as Program Development Officer for Asian Turtle Program (ATP). This was already prearranged during my last few months of study after communicating with the ATP Director Tim McCormack (another previous Leeds graduate) about possible opportunities. I have made one trip back to the UK at Christmas to attend my graduation and catch up on everyone else’s lives after university.

What company are you working for, what is your role and what does it involve?

Asian Turtle Program (ATP) is a Vietnamese-based NGO working to conserve and protect Asia’s native tortoise and freshwater turtle species from extinction, amid the current Asian Turtle Crisis. My role as Program Development Officer means that I provide support to other staff both in the Hanoi office and the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) in Cuc Phuong National Park (where I currently live). I produce content for press releases (for website and social media), proofread the English language in official documents, write grant proposals for conservation funding opportunities, support TCC development and daily running, and improve and increase the education, awareness and fundraising elements of ATP. Its very much a mixed bag, which makes it very varied from day to day.

What experiences at Leeds do you think particularly helped with your career?

While my MSc was largely UK-based ecology and conservation, many elements are transferrable to conservation in other countries and I gathered a lot of valuable skills which help me in this role. The Science Communication element of my Masters has helped me to produce relatable content for social media and my Grant Proposal Writing introductory module has been helpful for getting me started with grant writing here. My experiences working in the field and abroad have also helped me prepare for life in a tropical country.

What advice would you offer to current and prospective students?

I was very fortunate to receive the opportunity I have but it came about from me enquiring with potential employers and organisations that I found interesting. I would recommend getting in touch with people with whom you might want to work or organisations which take your fancy. Without coming across as too eager or annoying, showing interest and a willingness to put yourself out there may make you more attractive to employers.

Do you have LinkedIn profile? Would you like to provide a link?

Yes! https://www.linkedin.com/in/jackthomascarney/

Anything else?

I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell anyone who’s reading that if you are unsure about going to university or doing a Masters, I would whole-heartedly recommend it! It will probably be one of the best things you ever do, and you won’t regret it! Meeting some incredible people and having some incredible experiences were thanks to universities! It can also open up opportunities that would otherwise be hidden!