Oh NO!! Not another Lockdown!

Our Top 5 tips for surviving LOCKDOWN!!

Being in lockdown is no fun but is could be a golden opportunity for you to make some real progress in your career! Here are 5 tips for surviving lockdown from Sue Searle, our Principal Ecologist!

Make a PLAN

It is difficult to motivate yourself when your life has been put on hold so make a plan! It is a great way of giving your purpose and a reason to get up in the morning!

I find it useful to do a monthly plan of all the things I would like to achieve in the next month – health goals, career goals, reading/research goals, relationship goals, new skills, financial goals and even fun goals – maybe you can think of some more things!

The plan can just be a bulleted list or a spider diagram. Put it up on the wall and look at it EVERY DAY! It will help you to FOCUS and give you a PURPOSE to get up in the morning. And as you tick off all that you have achieved you will get a great sense of satisfaction.

Now is also a great time to make a plan of your goals for 2021! You can keep adding to it as the year unfolds. Remember to cover all aspects of your life not just work.

I also have a weekly and daily plan to get things done – all the while I am referring to my monthly and annual plan.


It can be difficult to keep positive when life is not on track. I particularly struggle with a lack of freedom. A good way to stay positive is to focus on what you HAVE and what you are GRATEFUL FOR rather than what you don’t have. This is a great way to brighten your day when you wake up and when you go to bed.

Be super kind to yourself at this time, try to be your own best friend. Avoid criticising yourself or expecting too much. Celebrate your SUCCESSES – even the small ones! Especially to do with your plans and goals.


Exercise is the best way to keep your body and mind in good condition. Lots of lovely positive-feeling hormones are triggered with exercise so you can feel good all day! If you can take a walk or run outside in the fresh air and sun (if there is any!) then that is the best – being amongst nature wherever possible is very good for the soul!

There are lots of workouts on YouTube – aerobics, yoga, weights, circuits – instead of going to the gym do these at home! They are free and you can do them whenever you want to! Why not do a variety of exercises throughout the day to break the day up. I use an App called Accupedo that logs my steps for the day and I have a target to reach each day. If I haven’t reached it after a walk I do some walking or jogging on the spot whilst watching something interesting on YouTube.

Keeping your body moving also keeps your mind moving in a positive way!


To keep you on track with your goals and plans for your career and life there is plenty you can do in lockdown.

Of course we have a range of 22 online ecology and conservation courses, with more on the way, which are designed to give you a quality learning experience and get your career on track.
Go to: https://ecologytraining.co.uk/book-a-course/online/ to find out what is available!

Have you, like me, got a pile of un-read books you keep meaning to read? You could plan do read a book in a week or two. Read something inspiring and educational to keep your mind active and engaged. Why not join Audible and get your books as audiobooks so you can ‘read’ whilst doing something else like exercise or walking. Here are some of my reading suggestions:

Nature related:

  • The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben
  • The Secret Network of Nature – Peter Wohllenben
  • Rewilding – Isabella Tree
  • History of the Countryside – Oliver Rackham
  • Bringing Back the Beaver – Derek Gow
  • Whittet books – Badger, Dormouse, Bats, Otters, Hedgehogs


  • Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway – Susan Jeffers
  • Eat That Frog – Brian Tracy
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R Covey
  • Men are from Mars, women are from Venus – John Gray

(all of these are LIFE-CHANGING!!)

Motivational people on YouTube:

  • Mel Robbins
  • Anthony Robbins
  • Marissa Peer
  • Plus the authors above…

Go and EXPLORE!!


One of the worst things about being in lockdown is isolation – even if you live with someone it is easy to lose touch with your other friends and family. As part of your plan make sure you make time to keep in touch with people. Make a phone call, use FaceTime/ WhatsApp/ Skype/ Google Meetup/ Zoom or whatever you like to use. It is great to talk! Especially if you can see the person. Show them your care! Show them what you have been doing! They would value this time as much as you do! You can put it in your plan and schedule it!

I hope that helps you in some way.

Why not join me for a Motivational Webinar! FREE

If you are interested in getting motivated, particularly towards your future ecology or conservation career I am doing a Zoom webinar next Tuesday 12th January at 4pm for anyone who would like to get some career inspiration and motivation:

Topic: Career MotivationTime: Jan 12, 2021 4:00 pm
Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/84020902738?pwd=czFBNXJha24rSnl2Qk9WcDZmR0taQT09
Meeting ID: 840 2090 2738 Passcode: 965719

Put the date in the diary and I will see you there!

Lockdown? Study from home!

We run a range of online self-study courses (22 to be exact!) for people interested in ecology and wildlife so you can study at home! All our online self-study courses are fully operating so BOOK NOW!! Learn new skills and gain new knowledge with these carefully put together courses prepared by professional, highly qualified and experienced ecologists.

Most of the courses are weekly modules sent out automatically but in the current circumstances we can send all the module links on request so you can study faster. Courses are 1-10 modules and our NEW ones are video based giving you real experiential material!

Courses include:

Phase 1 Habitat mapping

Surveying for Protected species

Introduction to Bats

Surveying Buildings for Bats

Activity Surveys for Bats

Habitat management

Habitat restoration

Woodland Management for Biodiversity

Introduction to Ecology

Invasive species

Mammal ID

Reptile and Amphibian ID and surveying

Bats: Architectural terms for bat workers

Bats: Health and Safety for bat workers

Also separate Ecology and Surveying courses for: Otters, Badgers, Reptiles, Beavers and Dormice

New courses are being added regularly! Book NOW on the Online Courses section of the website.

Preliminary Ecological Appraisal PEA Acorn Ecology

What is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA)?

A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal, or PEA, is the initial scoping assessment of an area of land, for its potential to support protected species, based on the habitats it supports and signs of protected species.  PEA’s are required to inform what further surveys for protected species are required, as part of the planning process.  The aim of a PEA is to gather as much information about the site and the surrounding area, so that the potential impacts of the proposed development on designated sites for nature conservation, protected species and habitats can be assessed.  This is achieved through a two-part process: a desk study and a Phase 1 habitat survey.  

A desk study involves obtaining historical ecological records, so that, as an ecologist, you can assess the likelihood of protected species being present on site and the impacts of the development on ecologically important sites and habitats in the surrounding area.  By contacting the local biodiversity records centre, records can be obtained (usually no more than 10 years old) within at least 1 km radius of the site.  The data search will provide you with a list of statutory and non-statutory designated sites and a list of protected, notable and invasive species, with a 4 or 6 figure grid reference. 

JNCC Handbook What is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

The next step is to visit the site and conduct a Phase 1 habitat survey.  It is important that prior to visiting any site that you have permission from the land owner to be on site and you have a full risk assessment in place.  A Phase 1 habitat survey provides a ‘snapshot’ of the current conditions of the site and is a technique used by ecologists to map habitats and record species as a baseline for further survey work, in accordance with Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) guidelines ‘Handbook for Phase 1 Habitat Survey’.  These guidelines list the different habitats, which can be found in the UK and a definition for each habitat.  Ecologist can use these guidelines to effectively identify which habitats are present on site.  Once identified, the habitats need to be outlined in a map to provide a visual representation of the site. 

Phase 1 map What is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal
JNCC PHase 1 codes What is a preliminary ecological appraisal PEA

The JNCC handbook also provides a key for each habitat type with their own colour coding, making mapping the habitats transparent and consistent.  The objective of a Phase 1 habitat survey is to also record the dominant flora and signs of protected species present on site.  The ecologist can then assess the site for its potential to support protected species.  For instance, kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) could be recorded on a calcareous semi-improved grassland which could attract breeding small blue butterflies (Cupido minimus) which are a species of principal importance.  Even though the small blue butterfly may not be recorded during the survey, the site itself has potential to support them.  Similarly, it is important to record any features, which could support protected species such as log piles or woodpecker holes in a tree.  These should be noted as a target note on the map.  Further information on what a Phase 1 habitat survey is can be found on our website.     

Blue butterfly Acorn Ecology

The final step in the process is to present your findings to the client in a report and inform them of any further survey work, recommendations and mitigation, that are required.  If the site has potential to support protected species, then further protected species surveys are required to fully establish if protected species are present and whether they will be impacted on by the proposed development.  The results of these further surveys and subsequent assessment are required to inform the planning application.  Further information on protected species ecology and survey courses can be found on our website.  

CIEEM Guidelines what is a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal PEA

A PEA is an essential scoping survey that ecologists undertake regularly and is the first step in understanding the sites nature conservation value.  Further information on the CIEEM guidelines for PEA’s can be found on their website.  Here at Ecology Training UK, all of our ecologists are experienced in carrying out PEA’s and offer introductory courses at each of our branches for anybody who wishes to learn how to carry out a PEA. You can find them, along with our full range of courses on our website.  

Great Crested Newt Acorn Ecology

How do you get a Great Crested Newt Licence?

Getting a great crested newt survey or research class licence level 1 (CL08) is an important qualification for an ecologist as it enables you to work closely with one of the UK’s rarest amphibians without any legal implications.  Here’s some advice from Martin Roche, a previous Certificate student.

Photo 1 – Are GCN present?

Although great crested newts (GCNs) are widespread throughout most of England, Scotland and Wales their population numbers have declined dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century.  GCNs, their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are, as a result, fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended).  This makes it illegal to kill, injure or disturb GCNs as well as damage, destroy or obstruct their habitat or eggs.  GCNs are also a species of principal importance as they are listed under Schedule 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006. 

Photo 2 – GCN egg

GCN presence/absence surveys are performed by an ecologist to determine whether a pond, that has potential to support GCNs, supports GCNs (Photo 1).  These surveys involve using high powered torches, nets, bottle traps and searching for eggs to find for signs of GCNs in a pond (Photo 2).  The surveys may also involve handling GCNs to examine them.  GCN eDNA surveys can also be performed by ecologists to determine GCN presence/absence which involves analysing water samples in a lab to find GCN DNA (Photo 3).  Without a GCN survey or research class licence these survey techniques would be illegal. When applying for a GCN licence there are two key aspects that Natural England are looking for: knowledge and experience. 

Photo 3 – eDNA testing!

Natural England need to be provided evidence that the applicant can correctly and confidently identify a GCN and the difference between GCNs and the other amphibians that are native and invasive to the UK.  The applicant also needs to show they have been educated on GCN biology, ecology and habitat preference and therefore understand the conservation threats and legislation surrounding GCNs.  The GCN Conservation Handbook, produced by Froglife, provides information about their ecology, mitigation and survey techniques.  The Amphibian Habitat Management Handbook, produced by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, provides information about amphibian habitat management, diseases and translocation (Photo 4).  Here at Acorn Ecology we offer a GCN Ecology and Survey course which provides the information you need for your licence. There is an option to also receive a reference from the course tutor for your licence (after a test at a small additional fee and at the tutor’s discretion).  

Photo 4 – Useful reading!

Natural England also need to be provided evidence that the applicant has had hands on experience surveying GCNs and know how to correctly survey them using each of the following survey techniques: torching, netting, egg searches, bottle trapping and eDNA (Photo 5).  We recommend contacting consultancies and volunteer to help them with their GCN surveys and let them know that you are trying to obtain your licence. 

We also recommend creating a logbook in Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers that details every training course you have attended as well as every hands-on experience you have gathered.  Then this logbook can be provided to Natural England as part of the application for your licence. 

Photo 5 – Results from trapping

The most challenging task in applying for a GCN licence can be finding two people who are willing to provide you with a reference for your application form.  These referees must have a valid GCN licence and have direct knowledge of your work with GCNs.  More information on reference can be found on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reference-to-support-a-protected-species-licence/protected-species-licences-guidance-on-getting-references-to-support-applications.  At Acorn Ecology we have ecologists in all our offices who possess GCN licences and welcome anyone to join us on GCN surveys to gain hands-on survey experience and may be willing to provide a reference for a GCN licence (please note, however, that GCN are quite rare in Devon).  

For any ecologist looking to start their career in ecology, obtaining a GCN licence is an impressive qualification to have on you CV and will therefore greatly increase your chances of employment.  To apply for your GCN survey or research class licence level 1 (CL08) click to following link to find the application form: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/great-crested-newts-survey-or-research-licence-level-1

Smarten up for the Survey Season!

Looking for ecology jobs and want to make a good impression? Heading back to a seasonal job and want to take on more surveys and greater responsibility? Make use of the early training dates and get your extra skills in place before survey season starts.

Here are our courses in March:

Bats in Trees – 29th March in Bristol

bats in treesA great course for anyone wanting to add to their bat ecology skills and knowledge. Perfect if you are working towards your Class licence.

The course will cover bat legislation, use of trees by bats, survey methodologies, how to recognise trees used by, or potentially used by bats, and mitigation that can be used when bats are found to be present.

We will cover assessing trees from the ground and when aerial tree climbing is appropriate.

Bat Sound Analysis using Analook – 4th March – Exeter

Bats use echolocation to get around. Each species makes a slightly different call. Analysing bat calls, by looking at sonograms is a typical element of any ecologist’s work. This course gives you an introduction to one of the software packages used for this – Analook. You will need to bring a computer for the workshop element. You could follow it up with Bat Survey Data: Analysis and Presentation to learn how to present your findings in a report (5th March in Exeter).

Badger Ecology and Surveying – Date TBC near Guildford

acorn ecology badger courseBadgers are starting to emerge from their setts more regularly now, so it’s a great time to start surveying.

The course will cover urban and rural badger ecology and field signs, as well as looking at techniques used for surveying badgers.

During the course we will take a visit to an extensive badger sett where you can practice identifying field signs and mapping a sett.

It’s really easy to book courses through our website.

All our courses are taught by experienced ecologists. To find out more, meet our team.

If you have any questions about our courses, get in touch.