Why study natural history at USW?

Rebekka Goddard, BSc (Hons) Natural History.jpg

Rebekka Goddard is studying the BSc (Hons) Natural History. She gives an insight into her time on the course, from writing her dissertation to watching out for the Northern Lights from a hot tub in Iceland!

Why did you decide to study the BSc (Hons) Natural History?
"I was looking for a degree that would later enable me to work in marine-life conservation. Although there are multiple degrees such as zoology, ecology and marine biology offered elsewhere that would lead me down this path, the modules just did not appeal to me – they all seemed very theoretical and book-based as opposed to hands-on. I knew that the next three years of my life would revolve around the degree I chose, so I wanted it to be one that would sustain my enthusiasm.

"The BSc (Hons) Natural History course enables you to study a multitude of topics, including zoology, ecology, marine biology and more, with a focus on field skills both in the UK and abroad. This was greatly appealing as I want my career to take me all over the world and the international experience I would gain on this course would be of huge benefit."

What has been the most interesting field trip you’ve been on and why?
"All the field trips have been incredibly enjoyable and very interesting. Of course, Portugal and Iceland were amazing due to their location; the diversity of species and landscapes we are able to study is really interesting. Plus, the accommodation is really comfortable, for example, in Iceland the evenings are spent in a hot tub watching out for the Northern Lights.

"The trip to Pembrokeshire was the biggest surprise when it came to enjoyment. Before we went, I was not all that excited about it, but in actual fact I found the content really interesting; cetaceans were one of the main focus points and I found the skills acquired on this trip directly related to what I hoped to do in the future. This has subsequently led to gaining me a position as a marine mammal science intern this summer. I think perhaps the upcoming Botswana trip may be the winner though – we are spending two weeks in the bush, sleeping in tents and tracking wild animals."

What's your favourite module/area of interest and why?
"They have all been really interesting and the diverse range of subjects means the content does not get boring. There were some that I thought would not be for me, but they turned out to be really enjoyable, such as palaeontology.

"My dissertation has probably been the most enjoyable because we study a range of subject areas and you really can take your project in any direction you like. This year’s range of subject areas include media-based documentary, renewable energy, bird ecology and international field-based research into Tasmanian devils, which was organised through Operation Wallacea, an NGO that works closely with the University.

"I chose to do a month of in-field data collection on whale sharks in the Maldives, researching their thermoregulation patterns. I always knew I wanted to do my dissertation abroad as it would be great experience and help me getting a job in the future. The freedom you have when choosing a topic is great, and really beneficial when it comes to applying for postgraduate jobs, as you can tailor it to ensure you gain the best experience for the line of work you wish to go into. The University also provided me with all the equipment I needed."

Name five new skills you’ve learnt on this course and how they’ve enhanced your future career prospects

1) How to correctly record in-field data when observing wildlife for estimates of population size
2) How to conduct statistical analysis using a professional programme SPSS, which a lot of employers and MSc courses require
3) How to use ArcMap GIS – again, another useful piece of software, which allows you to map biological information and is widely used in many aspects of conservation.
4) In the up-coming Botswana trip we will be taught how to track wild animals
5) My dissertation has taught me skills in how to manage a large project, which you must complete on your own, something that will likely be a part of my future career.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?
"I have managed to secure a place on a marine mammal internship this summer in Portugal. Following that, I have also been offered a job as an Eco Trail Leader around South East Asia, with an NGO I volunteered with on a marine conservation project in Cambodia before starting uni. I’m hoping this position will lead onto my becoming a research co-ordinator for one of their international projects. Following this, I am hoping to start an MSc in Marine Mammal Science."