I chose Brighton so that I could protect the planet!
With how the Ecology and Conservation course is constructed, it might not be directly obvious how it is working on saving the environment. However, our course is training us to become scientists whose main goal is to protect our planet and its wide range of species and ecosystems. Our modules focus a lot on the application of biological findings and concepts to the conservation of species and ecosystem and their interactions, as well as our own interaction with it. As part of our modules, we also have the opportunity to learn about climate change and the research being done towards helping with it.
The Ecology and Conservation course offers a lot of opportunities to develop skills and have experiences focused on protecting our planet. We have a number of field work opportunities, and as an essential part of our course accreditation we have to survey a wide range of systems. In some cases, the data that we collect can be used by local organisations to help with long term management and conservation studies of the areas. My favourite field trip has probably been our rockpool sampling survey in the first year, where we also had the opportunity to meet people working for the Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCA).
Some of our lecturers are for example involved in organising the “City Nature Challenge” in Brighton. This is a global challenge with two goals that both help the environment. Firstly, it encourages the general public to find the nature surrounding them and learn about wildlife through taking pictures of plant and animal species and uploading them on an identification app. In a second time, all this recorded data is identified, and can be used in global studies about species distribution or ecosystems health. Taking part in this challenge is a fun and simple opportunity to engage with the wildlife around us, and I had a great weekend rock pooling and going on small hikes and walks during it this year.
A lot of students on the Ecology course take the opportunity of engaging with the Ecological Society of the University of Brighton. One of the focus of the society in this past year was to make the Brighton Campus ‘Hedgehog Friendly’, an initiative helping with the conservation of hedgehog populations in the UK.
Finally, volunteering with local conservation charities and organisms is highly encouraged, and many students volunteer during the weekends or summer break. There are a lot of placement opportunities between the second and third year, that many students take advantage of by working full time for those organisations, helping to drive local or global environmental protection. I’ve personally done a summer internship between my first and second year with a foreign charity (DMAD) researching cetacean ecology and promoting conservation actions in the Mediterranean and am just starting to volunteer for a local organisation, the Sussex Dolphin Project, this summer. These have been amazing opportunities to apply in a practical way what I’ve learned during my course, and I’m looking forward to continue with volunteer conservation work until I finish my studies.