Why did you choose Kent?
Out of all the universities that did similar courses Kent caught my eye. The course offered the option of choosing a more scientific route or a social science pathway, which offered a more rounded exploration of conservation and that really appealed to me.
Are you enjoying the course?
I took the Tropical Ecology and Conservation module and spent two weeks in Borneo. It was amazing, the highlight of my course so far. I had done fieldwork on the Canterbury campus but working in a tropical environment was a completely different experience. We got to witness habitat fragmentation first hand and to see what the production of oil palm is doing to the natural environment and species populations.
We spent 10 days in the middle of the rainforest at a research centre and I realised how hard fieldwork can be and how important it is to get along with people particularly in humid environments, where patience is in short supply!
I also went to Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey for a two-day intensive course. It was so cool to go behind the scenes at the zoo and to have lectures from professionals who work on the species recovery programmes. Our assignment is to write about one of the endangered species that Durrell are working on, research its history and how it has been managed and then make recommendations for a recovery programme. It is an area I would be interested in working in in the future, so it’s great experience.
I also really liked the Skills for Conservation Biologists module, which was statistics-based. It was challenging but has proved very helpful for my dissertation. At the moment, I am on a teaching placement as part of the Social Sciences in the Classroom module and am really enjoying it.
The flexibility of the course is a real advantage. If you can justify your choice, you can choose modules from other schools; I was able to take a digital photography module and one on environmental politics.
Tell us about your dissertation.
It is on three native newt species at a field site on campus, which has been monitored for 17 years. I conducted surveys between March and June and am now analysing data from as far back as 1999, which is fascinating. It feels good to be a part of something that has been running for so long. It is worth remembering that there are species that need conserving right in your own back yard.
What about your lecturers?
They are supportive and happy to help if you get stuck. They are also engaging and encourage open discussion and debate. Seminars are particularly enjoyable, you don’t just discuss the paper you have read, you may do role-plays looking at real-life situations and discussing possible solutions.
What about your fellow students?
We are a close-knit, international group; it is nice to be around people who share the same passion.
Are the facilities on campus good?
The academic facilities are good and improving. Social facilities are good too; there are lots of places to eat and drink and a club on campus. I like Canterbury, it’s a manageable size, not too small to get bored but not too big to feel lost.
What are your plans?
I am looking at doing a Master’s. Longer term, I would like to return to Jamaica and work on promoting and conserving its biodiversity. I am very interested in education and community-based conservation.
Any advice for prospective students?
Think hard about what area of conservation you want to work in and choose your modules according to that, and take a year in professional practice. The lecturers in the School are top practitioners so find out what their interests are and talk to them. Go to DICE lectures and conferences and join local environmental groups.