I did my placement year at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust in Fordingbridge, Hampshire where I worked as a research assistant in the wetlands department helping to carry out research on two bird species of conservation concern in the UK: the Eurasian Woodcock and the Northern Lapwing.
I decided to do a year in industry as I am interested in working in wildlife conservation doing field-based research once I graduate, so I wanted to increase my prospects of obtaining a job by gaining knowledge and skills in this area. I also thought that it would give me an idea as to whether this is actually what I want to do once I graduate.
One of the most enjoyable and challenging aspects of my placement was the Woodcock fieldwork that we did at night in winter. So that the birds were less likely to hear or see us when we were trying to catch them, we only went out when it was windy and/or raining and when there was no full moon or it was cloudy. As a result, we frequently got very cold, wet and tired as we walked round fields for several hours at night looking for Woodcock. Despite this, I absolutely loved being able to see the birds up-close and being able to handle them as it isn’t a species many people, including me, get to see very often. Another aspect of my placement that I found both enjoyable and challenging was moving into a completely new environment where I had to live and work with the same people. I lived on-site in a small country town so it was fairly quiet and there wasn’t much going on, but I got on really well with everyone that I lived and worked with and I made some great friends whilst I was there.
The advice that I would give is to use your initiative when applying, by submitting speculative applications, for example. I obtained my placement in an unconventional way. I had an offer from a different organisation but I knew that I really wanted to work for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, so I emailed the Trust to tell them this and that I had to give a response to the other organisation as soon as possible. As a result, I obtained a phone interview prior to the main face-to-face interviews and subsequently was offered the placement. Also, apply for as many placements as possible, but only as long as you know that you would enjoy them, to increase your chances of obtaining a placement.
Whilst I’ve been at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a range of different skills. One of the first opportunities made available to me was the off-road driving course which we needed to do in order to be able to do fieldwork, as this involved driving 4x4 vehicles in sometimes difficult terrain. I’ve also been taught other useful fieldwork and data analysis skills, such as learning how to use camera traps as well as the statistical analysis package, GenStat 17th Edition and the mapping software, ArcGIS.