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Ecology Field Assistant Intern
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I realized that despite the fact I am working towards a degree in Ecology most research jobs in this field require a large amount of practical experience and are highly competitive. Additionally I was aware that despite wanting to work in this area I did not truly know whether I would enjoy it or not. Therefore I decided to find a placement that would allow me to try out my potential future career and that would benefit my CV.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Through a website called Work Abroad

Application process

I initially applied by sending in my CV and answering a set of questions relating to my motivation and abilities. I was then invited for a Skype interview.

Main responsibilities

I carried out various types of plant surveys as part of a monitoring team on Zumwalt Prairie Preserve.

Typical day

A typical day usually involved starting work at around 8am (or earlier if the weather forecast stated it would be really hot). I would be dropped off at a location close to my first survey site of the day and would navigate to it using my GPS. The surveys were varied depending upon the type of target plant however it usually involved checking the area around the point for the presence/absence of the plant or using a transect to count its abundance. I would move between survey points throughout the day - usually walking around 10 miles each day. Most of the work was undertaken independently so I often went a full day without talking to anyone (except for coordinating with other people on the radios). Depending upon the start time the day usually ended around 4pm, at which point we would return to base camp.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

The plants on the Prairie are fascinating, despite arriving here with very little knowledge of American Prairie plants I can now identify most of the common ones and know basic details about them. Additionally it has been really relaxing to walk around the wilderness on my own for hours just observing the wildlife and enjoying the silence.

Challenging aspects

At home I live at just above sea level whilst here you are usually at around 4000 feet above it, the altitude change affected me more than I expected it to and it took a while to adjust. Additionally whilst I am reasonably fit I was not accustomed to walking 10 miles a day four days per week on uneven and often hilly ground. The combination of these factors (and the heat) meant that in my first few weeks I was usually tired and sore therefore I found it really difficult to motivate myself to keep going all day without anyone else around to tell me to.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

I definitely utilized and expanded my plant identification skills and now appreciate much more how important they are. Additionally some of the surveys were similar to some of the fieldwork that I have carried out at university so the prior experience was useful.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

This placement has confirmed my ambition of working within the ecology research field after university, it has also made me much more open to working with plants - which I previously viewed as rather monotonous.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

I would advise everyone to get as much experience as they possibly can during your time off, the summers are such an opportunity for us to try out potential careers and gain experience that will make us more employable in the future.

Form completed: 28 Aug 2017

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