About my job
I work at EcoFX in the Waikato region of New Zealand as a field officer with responsibility for the control of invasive species across National Park areas and farmland. Possums are a threat to native conservation through the predation of young birds and chicks and changing the forest ecosystem through over-grazing of selected plants and competing for food resources. They also affect New Zealand’s main industries - through the transmission of Bovine TB to the beef and dairy industry and damaging the forestry and honey industries. I’m involved in the control of possums across National Park areas and farmland. We use monitoring lines and chew card surveys to determine the areas that have a high density of possums and use bait stations and a highly specific toxin to humanely trap and control the population.
The best bits about my job
I get to work in the most amazing countryside. My ‘office’ changes daily and I see parts of the country some people will never see. You cannot ask for a better office than the great outdoors!
My sandwich year
I had an amazing sandwich year working for a non-profit organization - the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF). SIF help ensure that world heritage sites are well protected areas where conservation, research and education help to manage and conserve natural life and instigate scientific research. I was involved in a project to eradicate invasive birds on the island of Assumption, which is next to the world heritage site Aldabra Atoll. The avian species that had been introduced on Assumption were a risk to those on Aldabra due to the risk of them crossing the short distance between the islands. This would cause nest site and food competition for native birds in the same ecological niche and cross-breeding could have meant the loss of genetics in the native species. This was a paid post but, after a Skype interview, I was offered a volunteer position as I had the right attitude. Without this, I would not have had enough experience to be considered for my current role, and having SIF as a reference really strengthened my CV and job prospects.
How Hartpury University has opened doors for me
Hartpury University has been essential in helping me into my chosen career and enabling me to travel the world. I achieved a first class Honours degree. It was fantastic being able to tailor my degree by choosing which modules suited my interests and ambitions and my tutors not only kindled my interest in conservation, but pushed me to aim high and achieve - both in my degree and with life goals. Going to Bristol Zoo lectures and hearing from people who have been at the forefront of conservation studies first sparked my interest but it was the South Africa field course to Mankwe Wildlife Reserve that set my career ambitions in stone.
My career ambitions
I want to continue in my current field and in the longer term, be involved in every stage of a re-colonisation project; monitoring an area to determine which exotic species are present and causing problems, the removal of the invasive species, monitoring to ensure removal has been successful, the re-release of native, endemic species and the monitoring of the native populations. My dream would be to run a project on a large scale off-shore on a fenced in-shore island.
My advice to future students
Make the most of every opportunity to gain practical experience. Get the highest grade you can as it looks great on the CV and will get you that interview, but it’s the practical experience that will set you apart. The sandwich year is fantastic for this. You will meet some amazing people and make some great contacts within your industry. You never know where it might lead you. I went for a degree at Hartpury University in Gloucestershire and ended up in the Seychelles and then on the other side of the world in New Zealand. Take every opportunity you get and the world is your oyster.