I have now completed my 12-month placement experience as part of the uplands research team at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. In that time, I have worked with some amazing people, had lots of practical fieldwork experience and spent a year living in what must be one of the most beautiful areas of the country (around Barnard Castle, Northumberland). As I start my final year at university, I am only beginning to appreciate how much I have gained from the past year.
Hands on placement experience
Undoubtedly one of the most valuable aspects of the placement has been the practical experience. I have done everything from fieldwork to GIS mapping, these are skills I will take with me into final year and beyond. The responsibility I have for my own project taught me so much about time management and the research process. I began by writing a project proposal and finishing with a presentation of my results to staff at the GWCT. Doing this, I realised how much I enjoy science and has made me keen to explore a career in research.
Work through the seasons
As a field-based position, my work was very seasonal. I had not realised how much of a difference it would make to my enjoyment of the placement. At the start of my placement until November, I was in the lab or the office. Most of this time was spent on a single GIS mapping task that was quite repetitive. I struggled with this to begin with, especially with having confidence in my work and decision making. However, by persevering and eventually getting all the data, I was able to discover different and better ways to approach such tasks.
Spring and summer brought their own challenges, with lots of fieldwork occurring at the same time. The work means coordination is key, to ensure everyone can access the vehicles they needed. With every month came new challenges and opportunities to learn and making the most of these. This is what really enhances the placement experience.
Part of the team
Working in the research team was a fantastic experience. I enjoyed discussing my ideas with research staff and it really boosted my confidence. Especially when I was asked for my opinion or a suggestion of mine was used in their work. I am really proud of how I have become more comfortable with asking questions or suggesting things. Team meetings became something to look forward. An opportunity to discuss ideas and learn about the other work, rather than a stressful situation. Working with people with a range of knowledge and experiences was also really interesting. They gave me a lot of information and advice. This is helpful for gaining a deeper understanding of the work and thinking about potential career paths.
There were issues surrounding staff reductions due to COVID-19 and organisational politics impacted some aspects of the work. As a student I was unaffected and able to gain an insight into some of the nuances of working for an organisation like the GWCT.
Final reflections on my placement experience
Three years ago, I set myself the goal of doing a year in industry at the beginning of university. I am proud to say I have completed my placement. I have achieved what I set out to – increasing my confidence and gaining experience within a conservation organisation. However, the whole experience has been so much more than I expected. I have designed and carried out my own project and have contributed to ongoing, long-term research. I have also been able to spend time exploring and volunteering in an amazing part of the country. Doing a year in industry has been the highlight of my time at university so far, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.
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