Acorn Ecology book

Ecology Book Reviews

As an ecologist you are going to need some reference books. But with SO MANY books out there, how do you know where to spend your money and get the most out of it?

Number one on our recommendation list is How to Become an Ecological Consultant by Sue Searle. It’s full of tips and advice on how to make it in this competitive business, with plenty of career advice too.

Free downloads

Here’s some good news – you don’t need to break the bank or have an endless book budget (although that WOULD be fantastic, wouldn’t it?!). You can get digital copies of lots of useful reference material for FREE! It includes some of the most important, such as the Bat Surveys: Good Practice Guidelines, produced by the Bat Conservation Trust, The Dormouse Conservation Handbook, The Great Crested Newt Conservation Handbook and the Phase 1 Habitat Survey Handbook, amongst others. So that’s a good start! Follow the links to download them.

ID books

Botany books are all a bit different, and most people tend to prefer one over another.  Here are some of our favourites:

Collins Pocket Guide – Wild Flowers, by Fitter, Fitter and Blamey. Very easy to use, with a good introduction to flower shape and colour. This is usually our first port of call if there’s something we don’t recognise.

The Wild Flower Key, by Francis Rose. This book offers a key at each section to help you identify the plant with beautiful illustrations. His book on Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns is also good, for when you’re ready to advance a level.

There are plenty of ID books on trees out there, but the Collins guide hasn’t failed me yet!

The Beginner’s Botany course (run in Exeter and Hampshire) can give you a good grounding in plant ID as well as training you in the best way to use your ID book. Learn the families and recognise their characteristics so you can go straight to the right section in your book, rather than flicking through all of it.

The RSPB have published a number of books. Go for one that suits your level of knowledge and tells you what you need to know. As with many of these books, as you get better, you may want to replace your basic ID book with something a bit more technical.

There are so many books on bats. There are a few very good ones. We would recommend what may seem like a simple starting point – the FSC chart. It gives you loads of information on the back and when you come to ID, it does the job and it simple to use.

A good tracks and signs book can be very useful. There’s an FSC chart, which covers most eventualities! Explore tracks and signs on our Survey Techniques for Protected Species course in Exeter.

We have a range of the FSC charts in our training room in Exeter, so you can pick them up while on a course with us.

Reference

If you think you may end up doing a significant bit of sound analysis, a worthy investment is Bat Calls by John Russ. It is in almost constant use here during the summer when the students are learning sound analysis! It’s what we recommend during our Introduction to Bat Sound Analysis course.

Amphibian and Reptile Habitat Management books are available, again, as you’ll be glad to hear, as free downloads. These are published by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. They give information about the species you will find, and information on how to create and manage habitats to support them. For field visits to sites, have a look at our Ecology and Surveying courses for reptiles or great crested newts.

Remember, an ID book in your pocket is a great start, but unless you know how to use it, it can only help you so far. Get a helping hand from an expert ecologist on an Acorn Ecology Training Course. See our range of courses HERE.

bat course, ecology training, ecology courses

Trainees at work – your first job

Testimonials from our students at Acorn Ecology TrainingAs a trainee you are likely to get the time-consuming surveys such as reptile surveys, newt surveys and bat activity surveys (after training of course). If you have a problem with reptiles – snakes in particular – you may need to get yourself desensitised by just doing it and getting experience, or having a re-think.  Could you catch an adder?

We run a reptile surveying and handling course that has cured many of snake phobia – it’s amazing how quickly something scary becomes routine after you’ve done it a few times. These surveys often require basic skills and don’t require licences but give you the feeling that you are learning a new skill, doing something useful and generating income for the practice. For the senior staff it means that they can concentrate on more complex tasks or projects.

Hopefully you will also be given the opportunity to go out with more senior consultants and will quickly pick up information and experience that will stand you in good stead for developing your career.  Obviously if you are interested, enthusiastic and willing to put in some time to do background reading you will get a lot more from this experience than if you just do the minimum and don’t ask your colleagues questions.

Don’t forget that you MUST spend as much time as possible developing your identification skills (particularly botany) – colleagues can help but in the end this information has to go into your head and only you can put it there. This is where some personal effort and dedication will pay real dividends.

You will often be taken out on surveys just for health and safety cover. For example bat work at night, working around water, or maybe to help carry equipment. This is an excellent time to chat to your colleagues and find out about how they developed their career, ask any questions about the survey method, what you are finding, what they might advise and any other burning questions you have.

If you are working for a big consultancy you may be required to travel a lot too, again a good time to talk to a colleague.  Maybe discuss the legal aspects of findings and what advice will be given. Getting to grips with the legal side of our advice is one of the most difficult things to master and takes time.

We have developed templates for our survey reports and this ensures a consistent product and also saves time. In your first job you may be asked to complete simple reports at first and gradually do more and more complicated ones.  Good drawing and IT skills are useful as most reports have some sort of sketch map or you may need diagrams of mitigation suggestions. New trainees often start by doing the map and preparing a results table to go into the report. Some ability to use a digital camera, download photos and re-size them helps as most reports also include photos.

As you gain more experience, under the guidance of your senior colleagues, and backed up with your own studies, you will soon be able to tackle more varied tasks.  Remember your senior staff should want you to gain as much experience as possible – you will then be far more useful!

The great thing about this career is that there is always something new to learn!

You might find it useful to read CIEEM’s student documents at: http://www.cieem.net/students-careers

Excerpt fromHow to Become and Ecological Consultant by Sue Searle BSc, PGDip, MCIEEM available from our shop

How to become an ecological consultant, by Susan M Searle BSc PGDip MCIEEM (paperback book)

How to Become an Ecological Consultant

How to become an ecological consultant second editionPrinciple Ecologist and Managing Director of Acorn Ecology Sue Searle has written a career guide: ‘How to become an ecological consultant’ and we will be producing some blogs with excerpts from the book.

Sue started her career as a nurse and midwife and then did her ecology training…

A typical week:

There is no typical day, or even season, in my career now. Ecological consultancy has got to be one of the most interesting, varied, intellectual and challenging jobs around. Last week, for instance, I closed a badger sett, carried out a dawn and two dusk bat surveys, did a ditch dipping session with some local children, found a dormouse in a hedge and explained to a client the implications of having a bat maternity roost in their loft if they wanted to demolish their house. I also wrote several reports and, as part of the running the business, spoke to clients, did quotes, accounts, correspondence, marketing, paid bills, VAT and wages and helped my staff with their work. Quite a week! Each day is just as interesting, challenging and varied. I would not give up this career for the world, it’s great, and it certainly doesn’t seem like work most of the time. I have been an ecological consultant since 2003 when I set up my own business, Acorn Ecology Limited.

Why ecological consultancy?

One burning question you may have at this point is how or why did I decide to become an ecologist? I will cover this later as we explore what might motivate you to become an ecologist. Simply, I was always interested in wildlife, particularly plants, mammals, reptiles and insects and I love being outdoors. My early years were spent in Africa and as a child my mother could not get me to come indoors!

When I left school in 1976 ecology was not on the radar as a career. It was not until much later, in the 1990s, that I realised I could make a career of wildlife and what I needed to do to get there. Ecological consultancy became a more precise goal towards the end of my first degree, but more on that later.

What will you gain from this book?Sue Searle book 2018

As a person who is presumably thinking of becoming an ecological consultant I hope that by reading this book you will gain some insight into what the job entails and what challenges you might expect.

This book is written to help you make a start in a career as an ecological consultant. You may have just completed a degree or may be looking for a change in career like I did. Finding a job in this sector can be hard, especially if you have no experience.

This book will tell you what you need to know to get started as a professional ecologist; what academic skills you will need; how to learn the valuable skills you’ll need to work with wildlife; how to gain the right kind of practical experience; and how to demonstrate your knowledge in the right way to impress employers. I will also cover how to present your CV and yourself, when job hunting. It covers what to expect in your first job, goal setting, career planning and, later in your career, specialising.”

The book is was published in April 2011, and thousands of copies have been sold! It is back with a second edition (2018). You can order yours from Amazon, or from our book shop.