A Day in the Life of a Graduate Ecologist

Despite the title of this blog, there is actually not a ‘typical day’ for a Graduate Ecologist at AVA Ecology. However, one thing I love about this job is how varied the work is; no two days are the same and I am always learning or experiencing something new.

The warmer summer months are always the busiest as they are jam-packed with field work. This is largely because May – September is the active season for bats, so this is when all of the dusk and dawn surveys for bats take place. Surveys for dormice and reptiles are also carried out around this time of year (April – November for dormice; April – May and September – October for reptiles). These surveys are done amongst our many other tasks, including; scoping surveys (assessing a building’s potential to support bats), bat sonogram analysis (analysing bat echolocation calls), report writing and Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (a baseline assessment of a habitat, identifying the species present and potential impacts a development may have on the habitat).

Carrying out a scoping survey of a barn. Image © Steve Wadley.

Field work is still carried out during the winter months as we are still able to do some things such as conducting scoping surveys and Preliminary Ecological Appraisals. However, the winter is generally a bit quieter, so we are also able to spend more time doing office-based tasks such as report writing, marketing or writing blogs like this one! This is also a good time to get stuck into research and reading about all things ecology-related; as a Graduate Ecologist you are always looking to learn more!

Just as an idea, a typical full day at the beginning of July might entail…

  • 8:50 Meet at the AVA Ecology office for some biscuits, coffee and a chat

  • 9:00 Obtain the sonograms from the bat detectors used in last night’s dusk survey and analyse them using software on the computer.

  • 10:00 Travel to a site to conduct a scoping survey of a barn

  • 11:30 Back in the office for report writing, research, data analysis (and coffee-drinking)

  • 12:30 Lunch break

  • 13:00 Travel to a site to conduct a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal

  • 16:00 Back to the office for some more report writing and data interpretation

  • 17:00 Home time

  • 20:30 – 23:00 Dusk bat survey

Not all days are like this, though, and the next day could involve installing dormouse tubes within a site, doing reptile surveys, visiting a woodland, surveying a hedgerow, helping with EPS licence applications in-office or assisting another ecologist onsite with the supervision of a construction project. Also, whilst dusk bat surveys take place in the evening, being on a dawn bat survey usually means being onsite between 3:00 – 5:00 in the morning; a time when most are blissfully asleep! Therefore, in this scenario I make sure to organise my other work hours around this to ensure that I can get enough sleep (which usually means having a later start the next day, rather than coming into the office at 9:00).

Training is an important part of being a Graduate Ecologist, and so we also make sure to dedicate time to this, for instance taking part in a botany field course to brush up on those essential plant identification skills. There is also a ‘mini library’ in the office that is always accessible for when I want to read up on something, and Steve is always there to answer my never-ending list of questions, too!

The mini library of books in the office. Image © Steve Wadley.

The huge variety of both field and office work means every day of a Graduate Ecologist job is exciting. It can get a bit chilly when working late at night, but this is more than made up for by the spectacular encounters with wildlife, amazing and like-minded co-workers and the warming feeling of knowing that your work is helping to conserve the natural world around you.

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