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Ecologists help to reduce the impact a development has on the environment

An Ecologist studies the relationship between animals, plants and their environment. Ecologists often design and conduct surveys, identifying, recording and monitoring habitats and species on development, engineering and conservation projects.

Key tasks often include analysis and interpretation of data and samples, and the use of ecological data to help assess and understand the state of the environment.

If you love the outdoors, and would love to protect the environment for future generations then this is a job for you.

Story of a real Ecologist

Where’s Jenny…….outside! A common question my family used to ask when I was growing up. Come rain or shine, I was outside! Now in my professional life, the question is still the same, where’s Jenny, but the answer is a little different……out on site!

As an Ecologist I spend most of my time outdoors conducting surveys and assessments for developments. Turning a passion for the environment, into a profession!

Where it began

So, how did my career path start? Like most, mine started at school. I was always had a keen interest in science and geography, and followed these through all my qualifications. However, the profession of ‘Ecologist’ wasn’t well known as a career path, when I was getting career advice, as it is still a relatively new profession!

From school, I went off to study Ocean Science at Bangor University and then a Masters in Marine environmental management at York. As part of my studies I became involved with a range of research projects, which allowed me to explore different areas of the environmental world. As part of my Master research I conducted ‘ice’ breaking research aboard the James Clark Ross research ship in the Arctic Ocean, looking at ecosystem processes in the polar region. This was great hands on experience and meant I got to see a lot of Polar bears in the wild!!

Throughout my university studies I had a seasonal job as an assistant Ecologist to a small local consultancy. This worked really well and it was perfectly timed with the long holidays, you get from university, as well as allowing me to gain hands on experience of the profession. I normally worked the whole of the ecology season from March to September surveying for different protected species and plants, whilst maintaining my studies.

Since leaving University I moved into a job as an Ecologist, fairly quickly. Now at Mott MacDonald I conduct a range work environmental and ecological assessment for a variety of different types of projects.

What is an Ecologist?

I get asked this question a lot! It is still surprising how little people know about the role of an Ecologist/Environmental professional.

An Ecologist is someone who conducts surveys to assess the baseline conditions of the environment, development, engineering and conservation projects.

Ecologists are normally one of the first people on site, before construction plans have even been finalised! We look at the habitats present within a development footprint and how they can have potential impact on protected habitats and species, such as Bats and Newts.

From our initial assessments we can inform designers of where best to place buildings and infrastructure to reduce impact on environment. Sometimes we may have to do further surveys to see if protected species, such as Bats and Newts are present in the area. As well as help to supervise works, to reduce the impact construction has on the environment.

For the most part an Ecologist is part of the whole development cycle, from informing on initial designs to monitoring sites, after the development is complete.

Why am I an Ecologist?

Ecology and Environmental services are relative new in the world of construction and engineering. As part of my job I get to be innovative and creative with habitat creation and mitigations. I also get to be involved from the very start of a project to the very end, which gives me a great sense of achievement when I see the final development and all the work I have done to get to the end product.

But also, because I get to find things!

I get to find rare and unusual plants as well as protected species. As part of the works I may have to put infra camera traps to record Badgers or put bottle traps in a pond to survey for Great crested newts. Finding and surveying protected plants and species on sites is one of the highlights of the works!

Finally, I get to be outside! I get to enjoy outside environments and match that with environmental surveys and assessments.


Jenny Stephenson

Mott MacDonald

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