How to write your Personal Statement for MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management


I am currently reviewing applications for my degree and some applicants clearly have not been taught how to write these well, so here is my guide:

  • Tell me why you are interested in conservation and ecosystem management e.g. what motivates you to study it, what you have seen or experienced that inspired you (avoid using the word ‘passionate’ if possible because it is cliched but make your passion shine through
  • Tell me a little bit about why you would be a good person for me to accept on my degree, give me examples of how you have been involved in conservation or other work that shows me you are hard working and enthusiastic. I should be beginning to feel like I am getting to know you a little as I find out what you have done and what you think
  • Say what it is about my course that made you choose this one e.g. the module content, the course aims, or things you have seen on my blog
  • And what it is about Newcastle that makes you want to come to live in this relatively small city

To summarise: I want to know that you want to come to Newcastle, that you want to do my particular course, and that you have the motivation to be successful.
I hope this helps. Helen

Notes for MSc CEM starters 2023-24


Hi all, this is reading for if you want to join us on MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management from Sept 2023. Please also feel free to contact me at

Here is the induction timetable

We are starting on Monday. Is there something I can be doing in the meantime???
We will have an introductory session on RStudio – but you might like to have an advance look:

What other preparation can I do? Reading material?

Here are my suggestions:
1. Keep up to date by following e.g. Natural England and Defra on social media, but also Northumberland National Park, AONBs and other organisations
2. Read reports like the 25 Year Environment Plan – its updates and State of Nature (you don’t need to read every word, of course
3. If ecology is new to you, or you want a refresher, try
4. If you are feeling a bit anxious about stats or R, then
5. If you haven’t done much in terms of species ID I suggest the Collins books (the black ones) for wild flowers (Streeter et al) and for birds (Lars Svensson) and by all means use Apps (e.g. Seek) to help you – but start to look at plant families – and start to record sightings on iRecord. If you are a beginner in a habitat or group of species, then the FSC pull out guides are great. – I am not too proud to use them; they can be extremely helpful.
6. If you really want to – you can start to ‘play’ with GIS – QGIS is free software which you will use, but you will also use ArcGIS which the Uni has the license for. This is really only if you fancy having a look, GIS comes alive when you have your own data. You can find beginner tutorials on YouTube.
7. The Knepp and Carrifran rewilding books are good reads if you haven’t read them
8. The first module is forest and woodland ecology. This book is a good introduciton, but don’t feel you have to spend a lot of money. You will have the library at your fingertips when you register: Ecology of Woodlands and Forests: Description, Dynamics and Diversity (Thomas and Packham).
9. If you are coming from a different discipline, have a look at some journal articles in a topic that you are interested in. Use google scholar to search. DO NOT allow yourself to be overwhelmed – but do skim read them. Some will be better than others and easier to follow. In google scholar you can search for e.g. red squirrel conservation, or hay meadow management or ancient woodland indicator species – whatever you are interested in. You can limit to papers e.g. since 2017. Look at the abstract and glance through the structure, read the conclusion … just get the feel for them a bit

Please feel free to add comments and suggestions if you have read something good or want to share.

And in case you are wondering what happened to my posts – we are still having fun in the field, but I have reached my capacity for photographs, so I need some serious overhauling!

Snow for our friends from Asia

For some reason they didn’t want to hold the snowball in their ungloved hands for 10s until I was ready to say “3-2-1 throw” so I could take a perfect photo of them all throwing snow into the air at once 🙂

MSc Graduation 2023

Another joyful graduation for our MSc graduation – here I am with my wonderful Conservation and Ecosystem Management Students and my adopted Sustainable Agriculture and the Environment/Food Security students.

P.S. The reason I am posting from Twitter/X is that I have run out of space on my blog and cannot bring myself to delete anything … 🙂

Why do I always look a little ruffled while Janet looks so smart?

New PhD students

I have a new role and PGR Director for the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences so it has been wonderful getting to know them. Though the two on the left are also former MSc students – as is one of the students in the background. Lovely to see them back.

Summer activities with undergraduates

had a happy day surveying these with an UG for her dissertation

Another two more graduations

I don’t think I was prepared emotionally for yesterday’s graduation ceremonies.
Undergraduate tutees and dissertation supervisees: Shania, Rebecca, Alex, Rhiannon, and others like Rob (mature student whom I encouraged to do a degree while sitting on a hill voluntary botanising 5 years ago) and Tom (who was at school with my eldest son, and – having just had a year in work – told his classmates how important the Excel skills I was teaching are).

Then there was my tutee Rohan; Me: “I hardly ever saw, you Rohan, how are you?” – he did really well though and Rohan: “I knew where you were if I needed you!” Which to be honest, why would he want to spend time with a middle aged woman if everything is fine?

And Ian (MBiol) who I met on the bird ID field trip when he was in stage 1 – he got 100% and I got 74% (I was ostensibly a demonstrator, but was there to learn!) and now he posts the best wildlife pics ond Twitter (follow him! – see below). There is a chair and computer in KGVI Lawn cluster where we did stats that will remember Ian for some time, I think!

And beautiful Rafef (MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management) who wrote her first essay in English with us (rather than Arabic), and has been such an enthusiastic, dedicated, hard working and kind of the CEM students, graduating a bit later than the others for personal reasons, but that meant I had her and her husband to myself for our celebratory meal afterwards.

What an amazing day and I’m so pleased we won’t lose touch.

We’ve got Ellie back :-)

Ellie graduated from our #MScconservationandecosystemmanagement degree back in my first year as DPD – in 2019. I’m sure there will be some early blogs with her in. And now she is with Natural History Society of Northumberland at the Natural History Museum (Hancock) on campus. I’m not sure who is most happy about this, Ellie, NHSN or me! She has such a gift for enthusing and engaging people and is so creative – I know she will be brilliant.

Ho-Yin – Orchids – Holy Island

Would love to have a day out with HoYin on Lindisfarne looking for orchids – perhaps if I work ridiculously hard today and tomorrow, I will allow myself out?

Our students are encouraged to show their work off on social media – not just because it makes my blogging a lot easier! Ho-Yin is tagging all the relevant organistaions, BSBI, Butterfly Conversation and is working with the Natural History Society of Northumberland too and getting his work out there and his face know.