By Matt Pendry.
As summer comes to an end, and the Biodiversity Gardens Project starts to wind down, my six month contract as a Biodiversity Surveying Assistant for the project has now ended. I can happily say that I have learnt a great deal during my time here and it has been a real help in acquiring and honing the skills I need to get a job in the ecology industry.
My main role within the project was to organise, co-ordinate and lead a team of surveying volunteers, carrying out simplified Phase 1 habitat surveys of people’s gardens. I then would write up a report detailing what we found; what was good; what was bad; and what we would recommend to improve the potential for wildlife and plant diversity in the garden.
It all started back in March when I saw the advertisement for the role on environment job and eagerly applied, as surveying gardens and offering advice to promote biodiversity sounded like a fantastic idea and one that I could really get behind. Following an interview and an initially daunting ID test, I was informed I had got the role!
The first survey was quite overwhelming, as although I knew many animal species, my botanical knowledge didn’t stretch far beyond daisies, dandelions and buttercups. However with the helpful guidance from experienced ecologist Dave Warburton, I soon learnt the various traits and physical characteristics that define the different group of plants. I was rarely told what a particular plant was but instead encouraged to use what I had learnt to carefully narrow it to a group and then a species using the detailed field guides.
Outside of the project itself, I have also helped lead environmental education activities like pond dipping with groups of children at the Sutton Ecology centre. I have helped out at Wallington Grammar school, creating a pond and wildlife area, and also giving a talk in an assembly about the project.All of these skills have greatly improved my CV and will be a real asset in helping me achieve a job in ecology. I have learnt so much in 6 months and with my vastly improved CV have already been contracted by Thomson Ecology to do field surveying work with them, with the promise of more work in the future; something that I would not have achieved without the experience I gained through this role. I would recommend anyone who wants to develop a career in ecology to work with the great people at the Biodiversity Gardens Project.