Alumni profiles

Anne Cotton

Name: Anne Cotton

Programme: BSc Rural Environmental Science (graduated 2002), followed by MSc Wildlife Management in 2003

Job Title: Land Management Adviser

Working for: Natural England

I graduated from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development in 2002, with a BSc in Rural Environmental Science, after which I did a one-year Master's degree in Wildlife Management, also at Reading. I was fortunate to get a job almost immediately as an Agri-Environment Adviser at Defra. In 2006, my department became Natural England, where I have worked ever since in a very similar role.

Over the years I have worked on a number of different agri-environment schemes including the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme, Environmental Stewardship, and Countryside Stewardship. I have also looked after National Trails and SSSI's. I love the variety of my work because each day is different. I have the chance to visit lots of different places, different people, and experience a variety of landscapes and wildlife habitats, and I enjoy managing the challenges that they bring. It can be very rewarding when there is a big increase in wildlife on a farm following advice I have given.

Growing up in the Luxembourg countryside, I spent most of my time outdoors and developed a real passion for nature and the environment which fuelled my desire to study Rural Environmental Science. I chose Reading because it is in a really convenient location; with excellent transport links allowing me to get to the airport quickly and fly abroad to see my parents back at home. The attractive campus environment was also an appealing factor, and I loved the park style campus with the areas of green space.

The Rural Environmental Science course definitely lived up to my expectations. It gave me a broad knowledge of many different areas of environmental science including soil science, plant ecology, landscape management, agriculture, and many more, all of which I still use in my day to day work. I particularly enjoyed the weekly field trips and the chance to meet and study with likeminded people.

My time at Reading University was brilliant; it was exactly what I was looking for. I had lots of fun, worked hard, learnt lots and met many new friends. Studying here set me up for life by providing me with the skills and qualifications I needed to land my dream job!


Emily Newton

Name: Emily Newton

Programme: Rural Environmental Science

Job Title: Conservation Officer

Working for: Dorset Wildlife Trust

I graduated from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development in 2003, with a BSc in Rural Environmental Science. Since graduating I have worked for Natural England, the Rural Payments Agency and now I work for Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) is the largest conservation charity in Dorset with over 27,000 members and is committed to ensuring that there is a secure future for Dorset's wildlife.

The charity manages over 3000 hectares of land purely for nature and work with landowners and farmers throughout the rest of the county to protect and enhance Dorset's distinctive wildlife and natural spaces, and in my role as a Conservation Officer, I am responsible for delivering practical land management to benefit wildlife in Dorset.

I work with farmers and landowners writing habitat management plans, implementing conservation management and help facilitate agri-environment schemes. I enjoy my job because it is always changing in terms of the habitats, farm systems and environmental policy. I love working with people and enjoy the challenge of balancing ecosystem services with sustainable intensification. I can honestly say my job never gets boring!

I decided to study Rural Environmental Science at the University of Reading because I have always had a strong interest in farming and wildlife, and I knew that a career that incorporated these elements was one that I wanted to follow. Reading is a university which has a strong reputation for agricultural sciences and so I was confident that the degree I was going to secure would provide good foundations for my future career.

When I started my BSc, I was not entirely sure what job I wanted to do, but studying at the university really helped. Over the three years of my degree, my understanding of the different user groups and industries involved with the rural environment grew, and I found that the agri-environment sector was one I was passionate about.

My expectations surrounding my university experience were far exceeded. Not only did my degree give me a good grounding for the broad scope of skills needed in countryside management, I also had a brilliant three years there. The campus environment is a great place to relax, especially the gardens near the horticulture department, and the countryside is only a short drive away. There are also plenty of good bars and clubs for social events which were great places to visit with friends.

Studying at Reading helped me to further my passion in environmental sciences and secure a job which I love. By far, my greatest achievement is being happy in what I do, continually learning about natural history and how nature can benefit people in so many ways.


Joe Bishop

Name: Joe Bishop

Programme: BSc Environmental (& Countryside) Management

Current Role: Studying MSc in Ecological Applications

I graduated from the University of Reading in 2016, after studying Environmental and Countryside Management and am keen to pursue a career that involves an element of field work, such environmental or ecological consultancy.

I am particularly interested in ecology, and hope that with my higher level education and the experience I have gained through my placement year will serve me well as I embark on the next phase of my education with a MSc in Ecological Applications at Imperial College London, based at Silwood Park campus in Ascot.

During my placement year I worked at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where I was based in the science department in the herbarium. My role largely involved helping to develop Kew's Tropical American plants resource website, "Neotropikey". I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and loved having the opportunity to learn a new skillset in plant identification and taxonomy, and creating an online identification key for a group of plants that is now available for people to use around the world.

Studying at Reading allowed me to take a year out to complete my placement year. This experience provided me with an excellent opportunity to explore and develop skills in an area of biology, helping me to choose what career path I was interested in. More broadly, it has given me a good introduction to how scientific research is undertaken within an organisation.

I initially chose Reading because of the university's teaching strength in my area of study, with a number of the lecturers being experts in their field. I benefited from studying at Reading due to the generally small class sizes that allowed for more interaction between students and lecturers. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The fact that my course was so varied allowed me to stay engaged and inspired throughout; I enjoyed the balance of different modules and found the working environment incredibly friendly. Whiteknights campus was also a great setting for my course, allowing for extensive opportunities for field work.

Studying at Reading has provided me with excellent foundations to pursue a career in ecology, and I look forward to what the future will hold.


Vicki Thomas

Name: Victoria Thomas

Programme: BSc Rural Environmental Science (graduated 2002)

Job Title: Professional Ecological Consultant

Working for: WYG

I graduated from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development in 2002, and started my career in 2004 as a Consultant Ecologist at WYG, a National and International Planning and Engineering Company.

I now manage WYG's ecology team for the Midlands Region after securing the role of Professional Ecological Consultant. I am responsible for supporting developers and clients by interpreting ecological legislation and policy, carrying out site investigation and assessments, and preparing technical reports, management plans and environmental statements.

My project portfolio developed over the past 12 years is quite extensive; I have had the privilege of working on developments of new roads and the duelling of existing roads, large urban and rural house developments, wind farms and quarry extensions. As a result, there are never two projects the same, so the job is far from mundane and there is always something to keep me motivated.

I was motivated to pursue this career after studying Rural Environmental Science at the University of Reading. I have always been passionate about the environment, and when I started university, I was interested in a career as a Conservation Officer or a farming and wildlife advisor. However, during my second year of the course I was taught by a lecturer who had previously been a consultant. This experience encouraged my interests in Environmental Impact Assessments. The idea of gathering data and interpreting it to provide mitigation measures for complex development really appealed to my personality traits and skills, and here I am today, now writing Ecology chapters for environmental impact assessments!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Reading. I loved the campus grounds at the university, and I spent much of my time there, even leading a bat walk around the lake during the Bat Conservation Trust Conference in my final year! I also had the opportunity to conduct research projects at the university's farms and gain experience through the many field trips that were on offer. I remember getting the chance to take part in a project sponsored by Jaguar where I was asked to design a tree planting scheme for a woodland area, a really unique opportunity. In addition, I was offered the Nuffield Scholarship which allowed me to gain field work experience during my summer holidays, another enriching experience.

Securing a BSc degree was crucial to my success in this career field, studying at Reading gave me the opportunity to do this whilst also providing me with experiences that have enhanced my learning significantly; I greatly enjoyed my time here.


Denice Timofeev

Name: Denice Timofeev

Programme: BSc Rural Environmental Sciences (graduated 2009) and MSc Environmental Management (graduated 2011)

Job Title: Consultant Ecologist

Working for: Amec Foster Wheeler

Amec Foster Wheeler is a multi national company, with focuses, including Engineering, Environmental consultancy, Oil and Gas, Power etc..

As an ecologist I am positioned in the Environment and Infrastructure team. I survey for European protected species including Great Created newts, Badger, Bats etc. and produce report that are used at different stages of the planning process from pre application to discharging conditions and monitoring after works are complete. I also run logistics for our wider ecology team for larger infrastructure projects, providing support, coordination and ensuring access and health and safety needs are met.

My role is very varied and I enjoy being able to see areas of the country and wildlife spectacles that many other people don't have the opportunity to, such as handling wild dormice, and coming across unusual orchids.

When studying for my degrees, I knew that I wanted to work outdoors and with nature, specifically plants, upon leaving university the opportunity arose to field work as an ecologist, which used a lot of the skills that I developed at university.

Studying with lecturers and tutors that were very knowledgeable within their fields as well as had experience of roles outside of the university created a really rounded learning environment and provided great insight into the relationship between the taught and working environment.

I choose Reading University, as I wanted a campus based university and a degree programme that was both flexible and offered more practical and specialist content.

Both my masters and my undergraduate degree programmes offered a great mix and match style of content that allow me to make the most of the expertise and teaching on offer and come away with a more industry focused degree at the end.

My Experience at Reading was a very rounded one. I learned a lot of technical and general skills and met some very interesting and knowledgeable people. Most importantly I left Reading with skills and understanding that have been vital moving into my current role.

While I was at Reading I was a member of the Riding Society and I met my now husband during my undergraduate degree.

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