I’m sadly coming to the end of my six-week placement at Acorn’s Guildford office but can confidently say the experience and knowledge I have gained has far exceeded my expectations. After graduating in early July with a degree in Ecology I was keen to get straight to work on my future career aiming to try a range of roles within the ecology sector before choosing my next direction, whether that be postgraduate study or employment. Consultancy was one avenue that I really wanted to explore so the placements advertised by Acorn provided the perfect opportunity to do so. The prospect of joining a consultancy during the busy summer surveying season was daunting at first, but I was made to feel very welcome by Sarah, Martin and of course the dogs which made for an environment which was both relaxed and easy to learn in, despite the busy work schedule.
I quickly settled in and was introduced to the requirements of Preliminary Ecological Appraisals and Preliminary Bat Surveys during numerous site visits. This has improved my identification skills and the ability to classify common habitat types in the field and when producing phase 1 maps. The creation of species lists has also helped to learn specific flora and fauna that are characteristic of a certain habitat as well as their Latin names. Furthermore, assisting with PBS’s has made me aware of features to look out for when assessing a building or roof void for bat roost potential.
I have also gained a wealth of experience in bat activity transects and dawn and dusk emergence/re-entry surveys. I now feel more confident identifying bat species using heterodyne detectors, setting up statics and being able to analyse bat call data using both Analook and BatExplorer software. These surveys have been a particular highlight for me and have definitely sparked a new interest in bat ecology. For example, a dusk emergence survey in Albury provided a great opportunity to witness the set-up and use of a range of recording equipment including harp traps and infra-red cameras. The survey was made even more interesting as a rare Barbastelle roost had been confirmed at the site. Unfortunately, no bats were caught during the survey, but it was an insightful evening nonetheless.
Report writing provided an opportunity to utilise previously gained skills from my degree and was gradually introduced throughout my placement. I started off with data searches and species lists before moving onto Phase 1 and PBS maps, eventually contributing to the introduction, methods and results sections. This was really useful as it helped to tie together all the different aspects of consultancy from data collection through to the write up of results. I now know the importance of being able to communicate your findings accurately when writing reports.
Aside from the survey and report writing skills gained, I have also had some great wildlife encounters during my months placement. Some stand out examples include watching a Red Kite being mobbed by a Hobby during a PEA in Croydon and visits from both a badger and fox cub while carrying out dawn and dusk bat surveys. My consultancy experience has therefore been a really enjoyable balance of practical and office-based work and I’d like to thank Sarah and Martin for sharing their knowledge and experience to give me the platform to progress further in this field. As a young ecologist starting out in consultancy, the experience I have gained from Acorn will be invaluable when seeking future employment!
Josh isn’t one of our Certificate students, as you may have gathered. We do regularly have opportunities for work experience placements as part of university studies, or for enthusiastic graduates. if you’d like to know more, please get in touch with your nearest branch, or email us at email@example.com.