Following the introduction of our ‘Meet the Team‘ page comes our mini blog series. Hear personally from our team members about their roles at EcoNorth and more. This week, meet Alex, one of our Assistant Ecologists.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a twenty three year old Ecological Consultancy MSc graduate of Newcastle University and have lived in County Durham my whole life. I only started salaried work at EcoNorth in October 2021, but am thoroughly enjoying my role so far! In my spare time I bake bread and regularly go clay pigeon shooting, and have recently begun mushroom hunting – I don’t usually eat them, but I’ve got some great pictures.
Summarise your role at EcoNorth
Just after graduating from university I began working for EcoNorth as an Ecological Subcontractor, helping out with bat and newt surveys. As time went on I was gradually given different types of work and more of it, and in October 2021 I joined the team as a full-time employee. I work on all types of field survey and reporting, and am successfully expanding into other roles such as producing quotes for potential clients and planning bat surveys. I also do a lot of mapping and GIS work, which is the area I have most experience with and enthusiasm for.
What got you into Ecology?
I come from a family of farmers and outdoorsy people, and share their passion for wildlife and the environment. I love Britain’s landscape, environment and heritage of conservation, and want to play a role, no matter how small, in protecting what remains of it and promoting its importance in the modern world. The ecology industry presents a way to follow my interests while making a living in an expanding sector, so it’s an ideal path to follow. Now, I remain an ecological enthusiast while getting paid for it!
What do you like most about working as an Ecological Consultant?
Working as an Ecologist provides a great balance of office work and fieldwork and no two days are the same. Due to species activity levels over the course of the year, workloads are also somewhat in tune with the seasons. We’re very busy during the warmer months, but get more winter holiday than many other industries!
Describe the project you have worked on that you are proudest of. What did you do that worked out particularly well?
As I’m still learning a lot about how ecology is evaluated in the real world, many things still feel like small victories. For a specific example though, I was quite pleased with my efforts in digitising some very large bird survey datasets for an area along Loch Lomond’s western shore. Working on this project inspired me to develop a way of mapping data into GIS directly from the field – cutting out the need for paper and streamlining the work process.
What do you see for the future?
Obviously I am still very near the start of my journey into the world of Ecology, but I aim to broaden and deepen my understanding of this diverse field. Something specific that I have little experience with but would like to get more hands-on with is terrestrial invertebrates.
For Ecology in general, I expect the sector to expand in the coming years as attitudes change and environmental concerns move to the forefront of public discussion.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone starting out?
If you’re not in the industry but want to be: be persistent, enthusiastic and reliable, even if ecology isn’t your background – I never formally applied to EcoNorth, but made myself useful enough for them to keep me around! Bat surveys are a great way to start as required experience is minimal, and you get paid while you’re doing it.
Meet my Dog: Lola
Tell us a bit about yourself
Woof! I’m Lola, a 6 year old Portuguese Water Dog. My breed has been used by fishermen for centuries to retrieve items (and people) who have fallen overboard, swim messages from boat to boat and even drive fish into nets. I am very well natured and even more greedy.
What do you like most about coming to the office?
I haven’t been to the office yet but look forward to meeting the other dogs and their owners, especially if they’ve got treats!
How do you help your owner be a better ecologist?
As I need quite a bit of exercise per day, Alex has to walk me often. He gets good practice at identifying the flora and fauna of the riverbanks in Durham, while I hone my food-tracking skills.
What is the funniest thing you’ve ever done?
It’s hard to choose, but when I was a puppy I once managed to eat my own weight in bread buns without anybody noticing until it was too late. More recently, I slid 20ft down an algae-covered rocky outcrop in Scotland while staying as still as a statue.