Learner Profiles: Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology
I studied the certificate as a mature student; it was both a time and financially affordable means of studying a subject I wanted a career change into. The certificate exceeded my expectations in content as did the passion and expertise of the tutors and the friendships established will remain in my life I hope for many years to come.
The knowledge gained from the certificate was just a beginning and with the confidence and skills gained, motivated my success in being offered a post with National Resources Wales as a conservation officer.
I am continuing my personal study by undertaking the Diploma in Field and Conservation Ecology and hope to use the credits towards a higher qualification. Ultimately, I hope to work in habitat management and with volunteer groups to inspire the joys and benefits of nature.
Moyrah Gall receiving the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology from Judy Broady-Preston, Director of the Institute of Professional Development
We purchased an 8.5 acre field that had not been farmed for several years and had a diverse range of habitats. In the winter members of Butterfly Conservation came along looking for the eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly (which they did find and despite many hours looking up trees I have not seen the butterfly). We realised then that we could not just cut down all the brambles and nettles and tidy everything up. We needed to find out what we had and how to look after it. So after talking to the staff at Lifelong Learning, Aberystwyth University I enrolled myself on some ecology courses and also registered to do the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology. At the time I thought that if I had to do the assignments anyway in order to pass the course and for the University to obtain the funding that subsidises the cost of these courses that I may as well register.
I completed the core courses quite early on which I without any background in this field (I am a nursery assistant) found very useful. The knowledge gained on these courses is used again and again in other modules.
It has taken me 3 years to complete the Certificate and along the way I have gained knowledge on a wide range of subjects. The tutors are experts in their fields and very inspiring. Many of my fellow students have been professionals working in ecology/conservation and the courses are renowned for their hands on practical approach and the time given to a particular subject. These fellow students have shared their knowledge and expertise and have been very supportive.
I have really enjoyed doing the certificate although some aspects were challenging. I have had some wonderful experiences, met lovely people and seen wildlife that I probably otherwise would not have seen or maybe not even have noticed. I am very proud of what I have achieved.
Thanks to the excellent range of Lifelong learning courses in Ecology, I am now running itsvital.co.uk which is an ecological consultancy and online training business. I also teach wildlife survey techniques to a wide variety of groups.
I completed the Diploma in Field and Conservation Ecology this year and used the credits to continue my studies and enter the final year of BSc. in Ecology at the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University
Elaine completed the Certificate of Higher Education in 2014 and currently works as a Ranger for the National Trust.
Elaine says ‘when I started the Certificate I was a volunteer conservation trainee with the wildlife trust, with the knowledge I've gained from the certificate I've been able to pursue a career in conservation. What I've learnt has been extremely useful in my career and I regularly refer back to my portfolios which have become invaluable, for instance I when I had to create a grassland monitoring survey in a previous role, I was able identify the species of grass present thanks to the knowledge I gained on The Identification of Grasses, Sedges and Rushes course with Margaret Howells’.
Elaine is currently studying for the Diploma in Field and Conservation Ecology and plans to use the credits to complete a full degree.
Enrolling on the Field Ecology course enabled a career change after my second redundancy, I could study and still work at the same time. I wanted practical hands on experience of working in the field and the variety of modules taught is immense with most being taught by licenced ecologist. Part of the day is spent indoors and the rest outdoors learning how to sample, survey and identify species in their natural habitats. In 2014 I was awarded the Rob Strachan memorial prize which was a great honour for my mammal portfolio work.
The Field Ecology modules definitely gave me an advantage when applying for work. In 2016 I obtained a Trainee Ecologist placement with Just Mammals Consultancy in Powys where I had the opportunity to work alongside staff surveying for Bats, Slow Worms, Dormice and Great Crested Newts, while learning how to write up mitigation reports for clients. Many of my work colleagues are amazed at the amount of practical experience I have and this is mainly due to the dedicated lecturers of lifelong learning courses. I hope to obtain my Diploma in Field and Conservation Ecology in 2017 and go on further to achieve a degree.
Amanda is now a Freelance Ecologist assistant and volunteers for North Wales Wildlife Trust and Butterfly Conservation. She is a member of Clwyd Bat Group and a student member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environment Management (CIEEM).
Amanda Beck with Lifelong Learning Mammals Ecology Tutor Penny Lewns receiving the Rob Strachan Memorial Award
Caroline completed the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology in 2015. She is a retired Micropalaeontologist/Marine Biologist currently working on a number of monographs describing species new to science.
With 62 publications, including an edited book, a passion for leaning and keen sense of conservation she says ’studying with Life Long Learning has brought me up to date with recent developments in the fields of Ecology and Conservation, proving invaluable and complementing my own, very specialized line of research. Being out in the field has been pure delight, as has meeting so many interesting and dedicated staff and students’.
She continues to enjoy field excursions organized by fellow former Lifelong Learner: Chloe Griffiths who runs the Aberystwyth Botanical Society and the Nature of Our Village Project centred on Penparcau. Chloe often arranges for the County Recorders to lead these sessions, so there is ample scope for Caroline to broaden and maintain the knowledge she gained on the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology, while valuable contributions to the county records are made.
She is currently using the skills she learned on a Lifelong Learning Photoshop course to illustrate a scientific monograph written by her late husband: Professor Emeritus Robin Whatley on Scottish Callovian and Oxfordian Ostracoda.
Following the initiative of Lifelong Learning to link the Ecology courses with the Art and Design program, she has become an enthusiastic Natural History watercolourist and maintains that the observatory skills learned in this medium are hugely beneficial to her professional work as a taxonomist.
After finishing my degree in English Literature I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in Environmental Education. I completed the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology in October 2015 – gaining a practical knowledge of ecosystems, identifying species and working in the field. In 2016 I moved to Ireland and in March began working with Coillte (the Irish forestry commission) on their woodland based after school club, called Compass Club. This involved taking groups of 6-12 year olds into woodlands and teaching them about the woodland ecosystem and environmental protection, as well as some survival skills, and doing some personal development and teamwork but most of all having fun! For me it was about engendering a connection and appreciation for nature in the younger generation, who are so caught up in a world of technology and endless screen time. I believe that if this generation does not develop a love and appreciation for the natural world, they will not protect it, at a time when its future hangs in the balance. I worked my way from an apprentice leader, to co-leader and by November was leading courses as the sole leader responsible for 2 apprentices. I hope to continue this amazing work by setting up my own business in this area in 2017.
Doing the Certificate of Higher Education in Field Ecology has given me a broad range of knowledge and skills in different ecosystems and about different species, which is perfect for inspiring children about the environment and its protection. After doing these courses I feel confident to answer any question I get when out in the woods, and now have a many nuggets and facts to teach and amaze the children with. Explaining echolocation to a group of children sounds daunting but asking them “how do bats see in the dark?” then playing a game of ‘Bat & Moth’ (like marco polo or blind man’s buff) makes learning and understanding easy and fun for them. In compass club we also practiced a philosophy of ‘Leave No Trace’, even having a camp fire on the last session to roast marshmallows or make popcorn without any damage to the woodland or its wildlife.
Last summer I cycled along the West and North coast of Ireland and having knowledge of species and habitats made the journey so much more rewarding. Along the way I saw brown hare, badgers, a stoat, fallow deer and wild goat. The knowledge I gained from the courses gave me an insight into the effect that the landscape, agricultural practices and management had on the fauna and flora I was likely to see.
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