My placement started in the office at the Bristol branch of Acorn Ecology Ltd from May 21st to June 15th. Having been recommended the Certificate PLUS by a friend who completed the course in 2011, I was looking forward to getting stuck in and gaining lots of experience. By the end of week three I had already been on five dusk bat emergence surveys, a bat transect survey, a water vole survey, set up and carried out four reptile surveys, and been on two bat-scoping surveys, along with some desk study, reporting, creating figures; and had more to come in my final week.
A big white board of different projects that were in motion made me immediately realise it was the busiest times of year for ecologists. I was excited to go to as many surveys as possible. The dusk bat surveys were a highlight of mine.
On my second day it was time for my first dusk emergence survey, meeting at 20:00 at the office we headed out. I learned how to operate EM3+ and iPad touch detectors and when back in the office how to upload the data and create diagrams depicting the results of previous surveys. On the first survey we picked up mostly common pipistrelles, spotting bats as they foraged or commuted across the site, sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs and were lucky enough to see a Brown long-eared emerge from the soffit box.
It only took two surveys to feel like I could go it alone. Towards the beginning I would feel relieved when it was a quiet survey because I was not confident in my bat ID skills, but by the fourth of fifth survey I could not wait for the bat detector to be going off every few minutes. It truly made the survey go faster and made it much more exciting.
The one dusk survey I was part of was brilliant. I had heard lots about how cold and tiring they are, however, because it was my first one I was extra keen. By the end I realised I could ID more bats than I thought and it was a very busy night/morning for bat activity.
One of my other top experiences from the placement were the reptile surveys, although putting out 200 squares of bitumen felt was hard work, the idea that the empty site was going to be turned into a 35 building housing development made me want to come back and see what the site looks like when the project is completed. Of the four reptile surveys I had been part of by the end of the first two weeks I did not see any reptiles, but I was hopeful for the last week.
Thinking back and reflecting on my time here at Acorn Ecology, I have gained so much experience and learnt skills that I will go on to use in the future. It makes me actually look forward to updating my CV, because of how impressive it’s going to look, and it’ll all be true! I went from having absolutely no ecology experience, to being crammed with information on the course core week, to being able to use all the information into building skills and knowledge on the placement.
The fourth and final week of the placement came around so fast. I couldn’t believe it had already been a month. The busy days and nights made the weeks go by in a flash. Steph and Hannah made me feel so welcome in the office, and by the end have given me confidence in my abilities as I go towards consultancy jobs in the future.