Undergraduate Ecological Careers Conference

“The conference opened my eyes to many different career opportunities in the field of ecology” – student attendee

By Jade Hemsley, University of Reading

With the range of guest speakers, drawn in from different sectors of the world of ecology, keen to share their experiences and career pathways, it was safe to say that the BES Undergraduate Careers Conference was a success.

Dr David Feary – Assistant professor at the University of Nottingham, and Chair of the event, led the proceedings with his enthusiastic talk on natural marine systems. His passion for the natural environment, and the importance of conserving it, captivated the room and questions soon flooded in regarding his overseas field work experience.

Mathew Frith – Director of Conservation at the London Wildlife Trust followed nicely after and informed of his experiences that has led him to a career in the charity sector. An insight into his 30 years of experience within the ecology sector was impressive to say the least, to which he finished by stressing the importance of putting yourself out there to make the most of every opportunity.

Something that continues to be a highlight of the event is the opportunity for attendees to, and forgive me for saying the dreaded word feared by most student…’network’ with the guest speakers during the breaks. Furthermore, after speaking to some of the student attendees on the day, it was also the opportunity to speak to fellow students and to gain an insight on their thoughts on future career paths.

Prior to lunch, there were several talks from the likes of Vicki Herd – Sustainable Farming Policy Coordinator at Sustain who gave an in-depth account on careers in policy. She stressed that although challenging (in a good way!), the importance of policy and campaigning was becoming ever more apparent in the context of conservation. Nick Sanderson – Director of RammSanderson Ltd gave an insight into careers in ecological consultancy which included the perks of contributing to sustainable development but also the long work hours endured over the summer months of surveying a range of protected species. The student attendees and organiser’s alike were definitely left with thoughts to ponder over during lunch…

Something new to this year’s conference was the inclusion of application and CV tips. Nick Askew – Director of Conservation Careers took time to share his knowledge and advice when applying for jobs. Looking around the room, it was clear that this aspect of the conference was worthwhile as many attendees carefully took notes – myself included.

April Windle from the Natural History Museums ‘Identification Trainers for the Future’ wrapped the conference up with her plenary talk about the Heritage Lottery funded programme which aims to train the next generation of taxonomic identifiers. The room was enthralled by April’s involvement with the programme and her experiences which led her to secure a place on the programme.

Although I have only touched on some of the guest speakers that were present, the array of advice and tips that were shared by delegates were all highly useful, and a real sense of united interest was expressed throughout the day. There was no doubt that attendees left with a deeper insight into taking that next step in ecology.


This blog was written by Jade Hemsley, Undergraduate Student Helper. If you are an undergraduate student and would like to get involved in organising the conference in 2019 get in touch!