One of the best things about my Masters is that Ive been able to tailor it to my interests. I wanted to focus on gaining practical knowledge and skills, though Ive also studied some really useful theoretical modules, like Advanced Statistics and GIS (mapping software).
Being close to three National Parks was another attraction of the course at Leeds. On one module we spent five days in the Yorkshire Dales with National Trust staff, learning how they worked with farmers and landowners, and how they improved biodiversity by their land management.
My summer project is working on the LeedsLiverpool Canal. I wanted to study an urban setting, as thats the environment most of us now live in, and theres more and more evidence about how important green spaces are for peoples wellbeing. My project is exploring how water pollution affects diversity of invertebrates. I take two daily samples from the canal and in the lab I identify the species from the sample and colleagues in the School of Geography analyse the water chemistry. Ill only draw conclusions from the research when I have all the data but I can see trends emerging. Of course, species get more diverse as you move further from the city centre, but its surprised me how much diversity there is within just a few miles. My final report will provide the Canal and River Trust with valuable data about species and pollutants.
Ive gained lots of practical skills like species identification (plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates), which will be directly useful in a job and I've built on research skills I already had from my undergraduate zoology degree. Ive also learned about habitat management from volunteering at a local nature reserve.
I started off with no clue about what I wanted to do! Now I know I really want to work outdoors, with wildlife and people. Working with the public is very important in any conservation field, so it's been really good to do the project on the canal and answer people's questions. Mostly they appreciate that I'm doing something thats benefiting their surroundings.