Paul Renshaw at Mott MacDonald tells us about his role as a senior ecologist.
How would you sum up what you do on a typical day?
Through the survey seasons typical days quickly morph into typical nights. I find myself carrying out surveys for a number of protected species such as bats and great crested newts. This is balanced with spending time in the office writing and checking reports or at client meetings feeding back survey results, as well as providing advice on mitigation, compensation or enhancements if required.
What would you say is the best bit about your day?
Working with clients and making sure that projects are carried out with minimal impact to ecology.
And what is the biggest challenge?
Talking with contractors, site staff and others about the importance of ecology and making them understand why we have to protect it.
What made you decide to become an ecologist?
I have always had an interest in ecology. Following university, I worked for Natural England in a number of roles which developed various skillsets in botany, agri-environment schemes and wildlife licensing. By combining all these roles into one it turned out that I had learnt all the basic principles to become an ecologist, so I basically fell into the subject.
What is it that you love about ecology?
Ecology is a wonderfully diverse topic which often throws up challenges and continually surprises you. Every day is different which means you are constantly learning.
What makes a good ecologist?
A passion for the subject, an inquisitive mind and pragmatism.
What advice do you have for people about to embark on a career as an ecologist?
Undertake a relevant degree and/or masters course and volunteer as much as possible. Volunteering with local wildlife groups gains you practical skills in areas such as surveying. Alternatively, find smaller ecological consultancies who will use you over the survey season. Both of these methods will allow you to gain valuable experience and contacts, making your CV stand out when it comes to gaining permanent positions.