A personal reflection on the last few weeks

This week I failed in my applicaton for promotion to Senior Lectureship. I don’t mind saying, it left me feeling undervalued – and a few other emotions too.

Then yesterday – out of the blue, 3 colleagues who I was meeting with for other reasons, all made incredibly encouraging and supportive comments. I went from feeling undervalued by the people who made decisions, but extremely valued by the people with whom I work and who know me best.

Then Ellie, student from my first MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management cohort was offered her dream job, the interviewers told her she “wowed” them at interview and she told me that it was down to my careers support that she got the interview

Ray, student from the same year, also recently was promoted to Senior Advisor at Natural England and I shared his joy, because before he did my course he was a school lab technician in a school, but wanted to get into conservation

I’m catching up with another former MSc CEM student for a walk this week – the relationships formed on this course don’t finish at the end of the year

A current UG student for whom the whole 3 years has been incredibly tough for personal reasons and who we have supported through, told me she has a job for next year (for which I was referee) – I confess I could not hold back the tears of relief and joy as she told me

A number of students who have contacted me this week for academic support while they have been feeling lost and confused, usually about an assignment, not necessarily mine, but I have been able to help, tbh I cannot remember how many …

I am also stepping down from DPD for CEM – that is quite a wrench.

These are not the only stories I could tell of the sadnesses, frustrations, joys and achievements; I guess it is healthy to be in a place where all these emotions are experienced.

I am so incredibly blessed to work with such good, supportive, fun, interesting and intelligent colleagues. And it is such a privilege to have a hand in helping students get their feet in the door of these vocational careers where they feel they can make a difference in the world; that’s what is is all about. I too feel I can make a difference in my job – and I appreciate it. So promotion? Well – I’ll try again next year!

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

Featured

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

Our international community

Lisa and I (MSc CEM graduate) did a podcast on what it is like to be an international student with us – and what it is like for me to be teaching international students

It can be found by listened to by clicking the picture below. It is probably most interesting to you if you are an overseas student

Lisa’s talk

Watch Lisa’s talk at the Natural History Society of Northumbria from her MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management degree. A smashing talk with interesting findings, I think. Link to the talk is below.

Being out with a student on Widdybank Fell, lying in the sun, identifying the plants – after all the Covid restrictions, was one of the highlights of 2021, I think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SIkjMOftIo

Tribute to Tracy Evans

Most of my posts reflect fun things we have done or celebrate student achievements. This is the saddest post I have written; Tracy left this world on 31st October 2021… I am nevertheless also celebrating a student achievement.

Tracy joined the MSc in Conservation and Ecosystem Mangement Course in Jan 2021, a transfer from Museum Studies when she realised she had chosen the wrong degree. She quickly became a valued member of our group, albeit predominantly on zoom, ever ready with an intelligent and engaging contribution in a seminar.

When we were eventually allowed to go out into the field, she was as excited, happy and engaged as we all were – enjoying learning about the habitats, ecosystems, soils, plants, methods … I think that is evident from the photos below

She started on her dissertation, working with the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust, dissertation supervisor Dr Dave George and technician Fiona Maclachlan to collect pollinator data from farms through the north of England. Because of her high organisation skills and meticulous approach to data recording and entry, the data are complete and ready to be analysed. High praise received from the GWCT and Dave.

Fiona and I met with her a few weeks ago to heroically work through tea and cake at a wonderful cafe and have a gentle walk along the beautiful beach at Cresswell. Was such a beautiful day, I regret no photo from the beach – but I promise it was Northumberland at its best with sea, sand and dunes!

Tracy was a trooper. I feel so privileged to have shared the last few months of her life. My thoughts are with her family and friends.

Bryophyte day

Now former MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management students, Jamie and Lisa set up an ecology consultancy and won a contract to survey the Border Mires. Jamie spontaneously called the company “Sphagnum Consulting” so we decided we needed some bryophyte microscopy time – which to be honest, is me in my happy place!

Bracken the dog keeping a sleeping eye on us
NVC Phase 2 habitat surveying. Thought I better post a pic from the field too

Moving on …

Reflecting on how the skills learned on the MSc in Conservation and Ecosystem Management have helped our current students in their next stage of life. Not goodbye, but au revoir

My first ever Bubble Tea (what’s that all about?) and Moon Cake with Ling before she returns to China to start her PhD using Remote Sensing and GIS to research land use over there – happily she has developed those skills while completing her dissertation on habitat mapping land classification on the Kielder Mires
Lisa and I had a fun day out on a local nature reserve, getting Lisa up to speed on the bog species before she starts her new job in Sphagnum Consulting – a company set up by her and her fellow CEM-er also from this year. Their first contract will be using their NVC mapping and GIS skills as they work on Kielder Mires

Induction week

So sad to be saying goodbye to our MSc Conservation and Ecosystem Management students – it has been a year! And also very excited to say hello to our new cohort. I hope they had a good week. Highlights for me was the talks from our current students, particularly Nico’s on Terns, then the zoom call (which I was ridiculously anxious about – but thoroughly enjoyed thanks to the speakers below). And today we went to one of my (many) favourite places in Northumberland, Hauxley – run by the Wildlife Trust – to watch the birds and walk along the beach looking for fossils and crabs!

… and anyway – we’re not saying goodbye, but hasta luego and bis später and until next time

The photo of the first pine martin captured on camera from Kielder Forest (shown on Tom’s slide above) comes from my good friend John Hartshorne. We were very excited the day he Whatsapped that to us!

Thanks to our external speakers, Marjorie Davey (Natural England); Nick Sotherton (Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust); Tom Dearnley (Forestry England) and James Common (Natural History Society of Northumberland) for sharing how students can get involved with volunteering or with dissertations. Also NOV from Gateshead who sent through a slide show

The reflections in the hooked back windows are pretty cool – just spotted them!
Always take a picture here. Seems to be a tradition