What is a Natural Sciences degree?

Natural History Student - Elena Woollard

Elena Woollard is studying the Natural History degree at USW. She plans to use the knowledge and skills she is developing on the natural sciences course to start a career in wildlife conservation.

How would you describe your course?
Natural History is the life history and sciences of the natural environment and all that encompasses. We learn about animals and plants, their environments and how these things interact with each other. 

Best things you have done on the Natural History degree?
This course offers such amazing opportunities to travel to places such as Spain, Iceland and Botswana, which was also something that stuck out for me when applying for university. The residential at Pembrokeshire in the first year was really good. We did cetacean watching as well as bird watching and visited the puffin population on Skomer Island. I loved spending so much time outdoors and learning skills outside of the classroom. We're going to Spain in May which I’m looking forward to a lot!

What practical skills have you learned?
Studying Natural Sciences has taught me how to carry out river surveys using techniques such as kick sampling to identify the organisms present, this can be an indicator of pollution levels in an area. We've been taught how to carry out soil profiles and vegetation ID, along with cetacean, seabird and seal pup identification which are really useful - and lots of fun!

I've developed microscopy skills through plant cell and pollen analysis. Statistical analysis of data in the second year teaches you how to evaluate data you've collected and take the findings further. In the Zoology modules, we are taught dissection techniques in order to understand the anatomy of animals.

The GIS module gives you the skills to compile data sets into a visual representations and carry out analysis of changes and trends in environments to help protect and manage biologically important areas. This module is incredibly useful as it encompasses so many of the practical skills we've learnt (such as how to carry out a Phase 1 Habitat Survey), whilst teaching you a new set of skills using software and techniques used on a global scale. All of these will be really beneficial for carrying out my dissertation and for future employment!

Finally, the photography and digital production modules have exposed me to a whole new world! They have taught me the art of presenting the natural world using new skills and equipment and I've really enjoyed it. 

Favourite topics?
Vertebrate Zoology is so interesting! I've learnt to appreciate evolution and the amazing abilities and adaptations that animals have that make them all individually and perfectly suited to their environment.

Behavioural Ecology is another module I enjoy because it has taught me about animal intellgence and the way in which they use and understand the environment in so many ways that we can't perceive. Topics in this module include sleep, migration and navigation, including some neurobiology, all of which I have found fascinating.