BSc (Hons) Ecology and Biogeography (2008)
After graduating in 2008 and gaining five years industry experience, Jon recently set up his own ecological consultancy Babec Ecological Consultants, with offices in Sussex and Monmouthshire.
What were your careers aspirations while studying?
Before I started my degree I knew that I wanted to work in the field of ecology, but wasn’t sure what opportunities were available or how to go about preparing to enter the workplace.
A second-year careers module gave me the opportunity to analyse and evaluate the careers available in ecology. I quickly realised that there were diverse career paths available in conservation, research and consultancy and each one demanded a different skill set. After evaluating each field, including speaking to employees within each one, I decided that consultancy was the career for me.
Ecological consultancy offers a great mix between practical survey work, environmental law and project management. It really is one of the most varied careers available; one day you can be waist deep in water or up a tree looking for bat roosts and the next you can be advising a client project team on ecological legislation and policy.
Did you have any fears about entering the workplace after graduation and how you would use the skills you’d developed whilst studying?
From researching ecology consultancy, I knew that it would be a difficult career to break into due to the diversity of skills required and the level of competition for jobs. I knew that gaining practical skills in ecological surveying, species identification and Geographical Information Systems would be as vital as gaining a firm academic grounding in ecology. I therefore carefully tailored the modules that I took to give me as much relevant experience as possible to impress potential employers.
What has your career journey been to get you to where you are now?
After graduating from the University of Brighton I gained an MSc in Ecology before being offered an internship with a large ecological consultancy. Over the next five years worked my way up the consultancy ladder to become a principal ecologist.
As a principal ecologist was responsible for carrying out ecological surveys, managing a team of ecologists, advising clients on wildlife issues and managing the ecology for projects ranging from residential developments to major infrastructure schemes.
How has your degree helped you get to where you are now?
Gaining a degree in ecology is the first step to a career in ecology. The undergraduate degree at Brighton was great because it offered research driven academic modules in ecology alongside practical modules that employer’s value.
What advice do you have for current students entering the workplace?
It’s important to understand what career paths are available so as you can tailor your degree and experience to appeal to prospective employers.
Most employers look for candidates with lots of practical experience as well as academic qualification so use your time outside of University to volunteer with local conservation groups and network with prospective employers. Ecology consultancy is a competitive industry, so it’s also important to work hard and gain a good degree!
What are your career aspirations for the future?
I hope to develop Babec Ecological Consultants into a market leading ecological consultancy.