- Course: Bsc Ecology and Conservation
- Year of graduation: 2023
- Nationality: British
The University of Leeds is ideal for budding ecologists
Throughout my childhood, I was always interested in nature, particularly in marine and freshwater environments. I spent much of my time rock pooling, or pond dipping in the local recreational and wildlife pond.
At the age of twelve, I moved from England to Australia, where my interest in the local wildlife flourished. When I finished school, I was unsure of the degree which I wanted to do, as many of those on offer either were not grounded in ecology, did not have the opportunity to participate in fieldwork trips, or did not provide in-depth modules on conservation science, which I had also become interested in.
However, when I looked a little further afield, back in England, the BSc Ecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Leeds instantly caught my attention. This course had so much on offer, and was at an internationally-renowned University, with alumni from the course going on to be ecologists, nature conservation officers, and more. I knew I had to apply!
An abundance of practical field-work
It’s honestly very hard to decide what I most enjoyed about my course.
There were so many opportunities to engage in extra-curricular projects, both within and outside of the University.
In my first year, during lockdown, through attending one of the online career events I heard about an online volunteering opportunity with the Severn Rivers Trust. I applied for the role, and was successful, which gave me an opportunity to get some industry knowledge, and help collect data for valuable conservation efforts over the internet.
Another highlight was the course field trip to Millport, Scotland, where we got to conduct data collection based on rocky shore habitats. In my second year, there was also a new module created for the course that provided us with plenty of fieldwork opportunities across Leeds, to learn about urban ecology. As part of this, we went pond dipping in the Leeds-Liverpool canal and caught a freshwater “jellyfish” (who knew that was a thing!), we also visited Meanwood Urban Farm, and to the University’s recently acquired reach of Golden Acre Park. It was here that we got to do some of the first surveys of plants and animals at the site, which will help inform planting of the future woodland. There really is an amazing mixture of on-campus and in-the-field opportunities to learn.
When I recently finished my dissertation, my supervisor informed myself and my peers about the Beaumont Awards that are handed out annually at the University, which recognise excellence in undergraduate research. I was inspired to apply, and a few weeks later I found out I was one of the nine lucky recipients across the University.
My research has implications for conservation best practice, and also for human health and wellbeing, as globally, over six million people rely on coral reefs for food and income.
Not only was I very grateful to receive the prize money associated, I was also very thankful to showcase my research on how marine heatwaves differentially impact coral reefs across the globe. My research has implications for conservation best practice, and also for human health and wellbeing, as globally, over six million people rely on coral reefs for food and income. Through my research being acknowledged in such a way, I have been inspired to pursue a career in marine ecology and conservation that not only helps the environment but also those that rely on it.
Adventures on your doorstep
Where to begin describing Leeds? The city definitely has a vibrant food and shopping scene, which I have made the most of! The Corn Exchange has some unique shops selling local wares, gorgeous plants, and of course, there’s an amazing cafe. There’s also the Merrion Centre, Victoria Quarter, and the Trinity Centre…. The list goes on.
If you fancy a stroll, there’s Golden Acre Park, Harewood House, and Roundhay Park. Each of these are only short drives or bus trips from the city centre, and all offer plenty of outdoor space to explore, or to sit and chill.
If museums and art galleries are your thing, you’ll love Leeds City Museum, housing free exhibitions that range from natural history to the Egyptians, and the nearby Leeds Art Gallery. I also have to mention Cottage Road Cinema in Headingley, which provides a cosy setting to watch all the new movies. And perhaps best of all, just around the corner from the cinema is the best fish and chips place in the world (in my opinion), Catch.
The city definitely has a vibrant food and shopping scene, which I have made the most of!
Put yourself out there
In my first year of University, I didn’t really join any societies. In my second year, however, I heard about the LUU Irish Dancing Society and wanted to give it a go. When I was younger, I had gone to Irish dancing classes, but it had been a few years and the old memory was a bit rusty. After attending my first class at the University, I really wished that I had put myself out there sooner! I made some amazing friends, and got to dance at some amazing venues. For Saint Patricks Day, we did a dance crawl through Leeds, including in the Victoria Quarter, raising money for charity. We also put on a show at Christmas in the Union, which was definitely one of the highlights of my University experience.
Where to next?
I recently received an offer for a Masters course in Environmental Management back in Australia, which I’m excited to start after I graduate this month! After this, I’d like to do a PhD, and eventually work as a researcher or work in the conservation field.
I recently received an offer for a Masters course in Environmental Management back in Australia.
My degree at the University of Leeds has really helped me solidify my aspirations for the future, and my passion for ecology and conservation. Each lecture has provided me with unparalleled insight into the field, and has motivated me to create a career for myself out of this. There has been many opportunities to meet employers, learn about other’s experiences, and to broaden my horizons. Being surrounded by other students with similar interests has been great.