Stage 1 Agriculture and Environmental and Social Science Cluster – Posters

Our stage 1 students have worked to answer a question on a topic of current interest linked to Sustainable Development Goals, having worked as a group, without meeting their group mates, and never having set foot in a lecture theatre or computer lab.

I am so proud of them. Each degree program produced at least one excellent poster – I have chosen from 4 of our degrees – Food Business, Marketing and Management narrowly missed my inclusion of their sugar reformulation poster

This first one from Countryside Management students is obviously on a topic close to my heart, though I had nothing to do with the learning or the choice of topic. I was not just impressed with how much relevantinformation they managed to cram into a small space, without really compormising on clarity. They cleverly chose the colour of Sphagnum austinii (almost) for their colour scheme and of course I liked the slightly daring pun in the title.
When I read the introduction to this poster from our Applied Plant Science students I groaned as I thought, this topic is far too big for a small poster, but then, as I started to read, I realised they had proved me wrong. A very nice poster summarising how plants could help meet some of the SDGs.
This was my favourite from the Agri-Business Management students because they convey so much information so clearly – and because it is brilliant to see our young farming community recognising the pressing need to alternatives to chemical pesticides.
I found it more difficult to choose between the Environmental Science Posters on impacts of Covid, and the nice one about solutions to the impact of wind turbines on birds and bats, but decided on this because of its clear layout and nice use of images . And I sort of like the bright colours – it is Christmas at the time of posting, after all. I think it would have been wrong to have not had a Covid poster…I just spotted the spelling mistake Shhhh!

Here’s how MSc in Conservation and Ecosystem Management can Change your Career

Ray helping Elizabeth with her dissertation data collection on Lampert

Ray just messaged to say he has his perfect job with Natural England playing with GIS (as a GIS Analyst, I mean) to hopefully enhance priority habitats in Northumberland, like Lampert SSSI above. He says he can’t believe that 2 years ago (he was part time) he knew little about conservation and ecosystem management apart from what he had gleaned from volunteering with the Wildlife Trust. And now he has clinched the job he wanted where he can hopefully make the difference, doing the things he is best at. He formerly a physics technician and also runs his family business

This might actually be Phil’s first experience of bird watching

Phil came out on an optional, for fun, weekend trip to Hauxley in February, where Elizabeth impressed us with her knowledge of birds. Phil know very few birds I believe, but got the bug and was out every weekend after that, Whatsapping us pics and eventually selling gear to buy new and better binoculars … he helped on the UG field trip – and I have just learned, just 2 years after that fateful day, he is working full time and permanent as a bird surveyor in an ecological consultancy.

… and Chris below has followed Laura’s example and managed to escape from teaching; he has landed a job with Natural England in Wildlife licensing, while Laura, who was with a a couple of years ago, will be next door to him in the Environment Agency

Ellie with the Crocodiles in Belize

Wonderful to hear from Ellie (former MSc BCEMstudent) in Belize as she starts her internship.

Here’s what she wrote “I moved to Belize to start as a Community Ecology intern with the Crocodile Research Coalition, based in placencia lagoon. I will be running bird and terrestrial surveys, joining in on education and outreach and doing my own research project. The skills I learnt from the masters, such as research methods and stats will really help me, as well as the confidence I gained moving to a new city and working with people from all around the world. Thank you Helen and Janet and Simon!!”

Feeling Nostalgic

Do you remember the olden days when we could go to the pub and get within 2m of each other? Just found this photo of these beautiful people – Environmental Science students, Phoebe, Gabi, Jackson and Kieron – miss you guys. Now working in Environment Agency, Environmental Consultancy, AEA …

Out with the old – In with the new

Janet and I are sad when the MSc students have received their results and are saying au revoir. Some of them converted to part time because of Covid, but here’s what some of those who stayed to the end had to say:

“As a mature student, returning to study after such a long time away felt like a huge leap into the unknown, but it has been a fantastic experience and transformative in many ways. So thank you!” – Ray

“You were helpful and compassionate – and not crap!” that was apparently a reference to previous experience, not being damned with faint praise. He qualified with “you were fantastic” – Anon please

“It has been a wonderful masters and I feel I have learned the skills and gained the knowledge in biodiversity conservation to a high standard, it has been so much fun and at last I am confident in statistical analysis thanks to you! The modules have been brilliant, your guidance in professionalism such as report writing and potential career paths has been fantastic. It’s been a fab year, I’ve loved it! – Theo

I found a celebratory jumping picture from the olden days when we were allowed out in the field

The Environmental and Earth Science Society

Jake ( was telling me today about this society our undergrads have set up. Looks like fun – if I were 35 years younger! I’m sure Jake would love to hear from you if you are joining us next year and would welcome your ideas

Brief Description of Society Activities
EVEA is an abbreviation of both environmental and earth sciences which we noticed didn’t have their own subject society.  This society aims to provide a link between all the years studying this subject and provide a way for us to socialise together.  We combined the subjects as we found we shared similar modules and therefore spend a lot of time together in lectures.  One main issue we noticed is that there is no link for first years to other years.  Once set up we aim to have a tutoring system in place for all academic years to enjoy.  There will also be the potential for a Ball at the end of the year.

Coming to do our Conservation and Ecosystem Management MSc? What do you need to know?

This is to say hello if you are coming to do our MSc. I hope you are looking forward to it – I know I am. This page will be updated when I know more. New things will be added in order from the top

23rd Sept: I met our outgoing students yesterday and asked for tips for you. Here’s what they said:
– separate your work space from your living space – even if in the same room
– sort out your software: R, QGIS, in advance – also get familiar with Digimap and Endnote
– keep an eye on your emails
– join NHSN and go to talks (not sure how much of a useful option that will be this year)
– set app limits on your phone
– start early on your deadlines
Game Changer: Read Mark Read’s book Productive Researcher – especially chapter 8. it revolutionises your literature review writing

Registration: if you are having problems with or any questions about registering: – including who to contact

22nd Sept: There will be additional activities in the two induction weeks. Some module leaders will be introducting their modules at this time.
Unfortunately with Covid on the up in the North East, all but essential contact time has been stopped. Essential includes labs and practicals – fieldwork was on the essential list so I am hoping that will still go ahead.
I have heard from some of you that you have received an online registration form which is great news. Systems are being restored.
Induction Timetable is here
Page down to Postgraduate and it is under the “Agriculture” link

8 Sept: Just heard that you will be able to fully register online. You will also be able to pick up a “care pack” and your hard copy student card on 5th October from campus. If you cannot make this date, there will be other opportunities.

3rd Sept:
The Uni systems are down so communications may be affected so don’t worry if you have not heard anything.

Here are some useful a links to the g Student Experience Page and Infographic

I do not necessarily have your contact details so can’t get in touch to say hello. What I would like to do is to give you an idea of the timetable and what is happening during induction week. This is also not finalised but here’s a general idea.
During induction weeks (starting 5th and 12th Oct) there will be registration and some centrally organised induction. I will do some activities, but anything we do ‘in person’ will be optional. All online activities will also be recorded. Lectures start on 19th October.
– Your first module Forest Ecology with Dr Janet Simkin and we are hoping to get out in the field each Thursday for 3 weeks (weather dependent). The module lasts 4 weeks.
– The week beginning 16th November will be Enrichment/Buffer week. This is effectively to take stock, complete assignments and we can do some careers activities.
– The next two weeks will be either Wildlife Conflicts and Management or Academic and Professional Skills for MSc depending on how comfortable you feel with scientific academic study in the UK
– Then two happy weeks of Data Analysis and Presentation where we have fun playing with data.
– Simultaneous to all this will be the GIS and Remote Sensing Module which will run along in the background.
It is usual that by end of November we have stopped doing fieldwork (I was once asked why and I explained about the weather) so the rest of these modules are field trip free.

There will be a variety of teaching styles: there will be materials to look at and watch in advance, synchronous online sessions on Zoom, with chats and breakout groups, and Zoom drop-ins. Later there may be physical drop-ins. There is a bit of space for flexibility and we will be interested in your ongoing feedback so we can make adjustments when we need to, to make your experience as good as it can be.
I hope this helps. Nothing is set in stone yet – but I wanted to communicate our thinking so far. Please get in touch if you have further questions:

Janet has promised me she will recommend a Forest Ecology book for you very soon.

And so the post in not without pictures, here’s Dr Julia Cooper and me enjoying sea kayaking this summer around Coquet Island. I think I thought kayaking was laid back – like decumbent kayaking! One of our former students said I should post a pic of us doing that for future students to see what we do in our spare time!

Students Assessing Sustainability at Nafferton Farm

Remember the ‘olden days’ when we could go to the farm and work in groups with students? Here’s a dim distant record of a memory from February 2020!

This is our “Sustainable Livestock Production Systems” module where I teach grassland. We had a day at Nafferton Farm where the students spent half an hour each at a different ‘station’ learning about sustainable beef and dairy, pigs and feed, stewardship on the farm (I actually no longer remember if it is called ‘countryside’ or ‘environmental’ at the moment without looking it up – ELMS is ok!) and vegetative pasture grassland identification. This last bit was my bit of course and you can see the students fascinated (definitely) by ligules, stolons and patterns, shapes of leaf blades … Students made sustainability recommendations to James, the farm manger.

Freya Lance is the star performer here – it is so encouraging to hear our students recognising that they have to be responsible stewards of the land caring about the sustainability of the processes.

Credit to Hannah Davis for organising the day and to the marketing team for joining us, happily just made it before lockdown.

As we emerge from lockdown the farms should be a valuble resource and outdoor space where we can hopefully work on research projects – but nothing is guaranteed, of course