Wildlife Alumni - Cris' Story

Students jumping off a boat during Brazil field trip 2020

Meet Cris, a 2020 graduate of BSc (Hons) Wildlife and Practical Conservation with Professional Experience (now renamed BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation). 

Read on to find out about their experience studying wildlife at Salford and what they've been up to since graduation.  

Wildlife Alumni, Cris, smiling into the camera with a rocky habitat in the background

What inspired you to choose that course?

I have always had an interest in wildlife and chose Salford’s conservation course as it included the best mix of practical and academic studies.

What attracted you to the University of Salford?

It was a great course in Manchester that wasn’t too far from my hometown without actually living in the city.

Cris' Time at Salford

An anaconda caught by fishermen in the Amazon Rainforest, Brazil on the Tropical Ecology field trip

Can you tell us which parts of the course you enjoyed the most?

I most enjoyed the amount and variety of practical field opportunities, including a field study council residential in the Lake District and Wales, along with a 2-week trip to Brazil to study the rainforest. I took the opportunity to take a placement year and travelled round the world gaining experience in a range of fields, including behaviour studies on lynx in Portugal, wildlife rescue and rehab in Canada, a turtle sanctuary in Greece and ranger work in Malawi. I also enjoyed the technical aspects such as GIS and the module Frontiers in Wildlife Conservation. 

Which topic/area of focus did you choose for your final dissertation project?

My dissertation was on the effects of urbanisation on arthropod populations on urban and suburban roundabouts.

Role at the Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Where do you currently work and how did you find out about the role?

During the COVID lockdowns at the end of 2020, I started volunteering online with Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Health and Wellbeing project (previously known as Myplace) assisting in nature based ecotherapy sessions. Once sessions started to return to in-person, a trainee role came up within the team and I was encouraged to apply. I got the position in June 2021 and 9 months later I progressed on to my current role as Assistant Project Officer in the My Wild City project, a collaboration between Manchester City Council and Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

Tell us a little bit about your current role and your day-to-day responsibilities. 

My role is mainly based around community engagement and events, where I coordinate projects with local community groups and schools, as well as promote and encourage people to improve nature in their own spaces with our My Wild Garden project. No one day is the same and I am constantly changing what I am working on.

Alongside the My Wild City role, I kept one day a week to continue work on my Saturday young person’s conservation group, Dirtworks, with the Nature and Wellbeing team, as well as helping to organise training for Green Social Prescribers.

Can you tell us about any exciting projects you’ve worked on?  And what do you enjoy most about your role?

The biggest project I worked on so far has just finished, as we were a part of Manchester Science Festival with an interactive stall on wildlife gardening. I worked on all aspects of the project from start to finish; designing the display, organising staff and attending the event was very rewarding. Connected to this we also got an opportunity to lead a bat walk on the Castlefield Viaduct at Deansgate, a brand new urban wildlife site.

The most exciting project I have worked on has been the environmental DNA project, where I took community groups to sample ponds across North Manchester using eDNA and comparing it to traditional sampling. More information on that project can be found on our blog post.

I enjoy how much variety there is in my role and trying out all kinds of new things, gaining experience and attending interesting training courses.

Reflections and future plans

Hand raising rescued baby deer mice at Critter Care Wildlife Society in Canada

How do you feel your course prepared you for your future employment?

My degree definitely prepared me well for future employment, especially the placement year, which gave me the opportunity to try out different options and learn how to practically work with a team of other volunteers, as well as many other real life skills. I also use much of my surveying and conservation knowledge regularly in my role to give talks, attend public events and advise environmental community groups. I still use more academic skills too such as writing case studies and management plans. as well as creating maps using GIS.

What advice would you give to prospective students or those seeking a career in this area?

VOLUNTEER! Experience is sometimes hard to get in the conservation industry as there can be limited opportunities especially for young people, but don’t be afraid to volunteer as it can be a great way to get yourself known, and to gain experience and training. There is always a lot going on in your local community groups and organisations, especially if you have a particular interest such as bats or fungi, as they often have local surveying groups.

Have you thought about the next steps in your career and where you would like to progress to? 

I am currently at the Assistant Project Officer level and the My Wild City project ends at the end of next March, so I am hoping to apply for a Project Officer role in a new project with the aim of getting a more permanent position within The Wildlife Trust or similar organisation, as it can be difficult working on contracts based on external funding.