Kayleigh working at the beach

Making the most of networking opportunities to take part in research

Third year Ecology and Conservation student Kayleigh was part of the group of students who joined Professor Hawkins from the University of Southampton on his rock pool surveys earlier this year. Find out how she got involved, what she worked on and more about studying Ecology and Conservation at Brighton, (you can read about Amy’s experience on the project here, too).

I heard about this opportunity through Dr. Corina Ciocan via a Teams group dedicated to rockpool exploration. Which really shows how important networking with your peers/teaching staff is!

The ongoing project by Professor Stephen Hawkins is investigating how climate change may be driving changes across the rocky shores across the south coast of England (though this work has also been conducted elsewhere). This is really important research that I was really excited to be a part of (even if it was just one morning!).

After the lockdowns I think a lot of us were itching to get out into the field to gain some new skills and experience. I am also really interested in coastal ecosystems so was really keen to give a helping hand and meet others who are so knowledgeable on the area.

Over the few hours that I spent with Professor Hawkins, I was able to learn to identify invasive barnacle species (Elminius modestus), assisting with timed surveys of purple topshells (Gibbula umbilicalis) which are later used to calculate the species abundance. I also did a walking transect along the rocky shores to roughly estimate the distribution of blue mussels (Mytilus edulis).

Throughout the morning I was able to practice some previously learned field techniques as well as developing my identification skills for species inhabiting our rocky shores. Being able to practice identifying species was something that I really enjoyed and learned a lot from. I was given an insight into the diversity of species, as well as some interesting facts that I has not known prior.

The skills used to monitor the rocky shores for this study, had previously been taught on the ecology course, whether that was in the field or in class. Because of this, being about to go out and practice them was really beneficial to help me further understand their use and benefits of different surveying techniques.

The course was really what made me want to apply to Brighton Uni. The emphasis on field work and practical skills, along with the range of modules available really appealed to me and resonated with the type of career I wish to pursue.

From the first year you are able to tailor the optional modules to suit your interests, which is something that I think is really important. I think this also gives us the opportunity to communicate with lecturers who are knowledgeable and passionate about areas we may be interested in.

The first-year module Diversity of Life really springs to mind. This module gave a broad look at living organisms, looking at microbes, plants and animals. Overall this module was able to fill in any gaps I had about an array of taxonomic groups, which was really beneficial for the following year and other modules within the first year. I also really enjoyed Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems in the second year, as we were able to learn about the variety of aquatic ecosystems. We also completed a piece of coursework in which we were required to process, analyse, and writeup given data – a really useful skill when coming into your third year.

All teaching and support staff that I have had contact with have been really great. Even throughout COVID, they were all still invested in us and our well-being. Teaching staff are always willing to help where they can and provide support for students.

In the future I hope to working with marine ecology, using the skills and knowledge that I have attained throughout these three years to help with the conservation of threatened habitats and species.

Definitely apply – this course is so great, and you get presented with so many incredible opportunities to broaden your knowledge and interests both inside and outside the classroom. But you have to be willing to work hard and put yourself out there to really get the full experience of the course. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!


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