“The team’s obvious passion for their work has provided important inspiration for my own university projects”
Richard Spiers joined our infrastructure & environment team in Bristol for an undergraduate internship.
My great curiosity for the natural world, combined with not being afraid of outdoor work and getting my hands dirty, has led me into the world of ecology and environmental studies since secondary school. Always willing to don my boots and coat, to go hiking or spend an afternoon bird watching, I have felt a natural calling for a career within the environment so I could learn to protect and manage it.
I have pursued my passion for studying nature with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Biology and will be undertaking my master’s degree in Environmental Management at Bath Spa University as of September 2016. My studies have very much focused on learning about the practical tools and skills of a field ecologist, along with the relevant legislation and statistical analyses that are vital to environmental work.
My week-long internship with Waterman’s ecology team was a perfect opportunity to put my knowledge into action. I was able to further develop my skills by experiencing the regular routine and responsibilities of a practising ecologist, something which cannot be appreciated from a classroom.
Having had little experience of working in an office environment, I was slightly daunted approaching the Bristol office’s impressive docklands, but Richard Stockwell, Regional Director, and his team were very welcoming and quickly put me at ease. I was shadowing Lee Mantle, Associate Director of Infrastructure & Environment, who gave me a very thorough insight into the kind of work the group undertakes, talking me through detailed reports from past projects and showing me the array of equipment and resources used by the Ecology team.
Ecologists divide their time between the office and working out in the field. I was very pleased to get immediately stuck in with an example of a typical day’s tasks on my very first day where I went on a site visit to a large housing development. I was able to help carry out a Phase 1 habitat survey to look for evidence of important plant species and animals such as badgers and bats which would require protection during the construction process.
Later in the week, I accompanied the team on a Night Bat Activity survey where we used ultrasonic detectors to investigate the presence and movements of the local bat population. This sort of survey lasts for a few hours from sunset, but having the chance to use some high-tech kit first hand was a fantastic learning experience! This was not at all like an exercise at university – it was fascinating to see information that I helped to collect go on to be used in detailed reports and affect future development strategies.
I greatly enjoyed working alongside Waterman’s ecologists and I was very impressed with their professionalism, skill and vast background of experience. Their obvious passion for their work has provided important inspiration for my own university projects and I want to thank them for having me along for the ride, watching them do what they do best.