MSc Species Identification and Survey Skills

MSc Species Identification and Survey SkillsPeople are becoming more detached from the natural world and the problems it faces. One consequence of this is that the skills required to work in the field with wildlife are in short supply, such as the ability to identify species under field conditions. Several sectors demand people with these types of skills and find it hard to fill positions. This includes ecological consultants, conservation organisations and biodiversity recorders. This programme provides students with the skills and opportunities necessary to develop careers in these sectors. There are two routes that students can follow through the MSc course: either they can target ecological consultancy and take modules offering material required by this sector (including professional skills and the final placement) or they can go down the wildlife conservation/recording route that ends with a project rather than a placement.

The ecological consultancy sector is buoyant as legislation and land management restrictions are becoming ever more stringent, forcing developers to go through consultants prior to construction and to carry out any mitigation required. Consequently there are extensive employment opportunities. This MSc is unique in the UK and is designed to offer students a stepping-stone into Ecological Consultancy. To ensure that appropriate training is provided to achieve this, Biological Sciences has established a partnership with RSK to jointly deliver material. RSK is one of the largest ecological consultants in the UK.

A frequent complaint by ecological consultants is that students with the desired level of identification and field survey skills are not available for recruitment. This means that the consultant must spend many months getting recruits 'up-to-speed' which costs time, money and resources. In addition to providing information and carrying out exercises, the principal aim of this MSc (SISS) is to offer students an outstanding opportunity to develop their CV appropriately to facilitate interview and subsequent employment. The SISS MSc is designed to provide everything required to enter a career in consultancy or employment in wildlife conservation.

Taught modules include:

Term 1

Term 2

Summer placement with RSK or another consultancy working alongside professionals on species and habitat surveys, reporting and tendering. Alternatively a standard research project is also available.

One Year - Full time.

Associated Institutions

The MSc course is supported by a variety of other organizations including Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Hawk Conservancy Trust.

The University has well-established collaborative links with most of these organizations and elements of teaching are delivered by all of them. In addition, Reading MSc students have a long history of carrying out their projects with these organizations, quite often as a prelude to employment.

Consultants actively engaging with the MSc programme include: RSK, Ecosa, EPR, ECUS, AECOM, Jacobs, Southern Ecological Solutions and Froglife. RSK in particular deliver a significant proportion of the taught component of the programme for those students targeting the ecological consultancy route. 

The Centre for Wildlife Assessment and Conservation

CWACThe Centre for Wildlife Assessment and Conservation (CWAC) is a facility that offers students the opportunity to explore the world of wildlife and its conservation. There are various web-based elements to CWAC, web pages, blog etc, but the main portal we use to bring issues to student attention and to access other parts of CWAC is a twitter site:

CWAC is about wildlife and this is not the jurisdiction of any one University. Through CWAC we will also showcase examples of conservation research carried out by Reading students. Another role that CWAC plays is to encourage students to learn how to identify species and to submit their records to the national database. The species identification and recording work is carried out in the CWAC laboratory; a lab dedicated to students research work.

The University of Reading

Reading University is situated within what is arguably the most beautiful campus, Whiteknights Park, in the UK. In fact, Whiteknights Park has just received a green flag award for the third year running. It was voted the sixth best urban green space in the whole of the UK. Most of the 300 acre campus consists of three lakes, meadows maintained specifically for biodiversity, and a large area of woodland (The Wilderness). We are lucky to have a great deal of plant, animal and habitat diversity on our main campus. We report this diversity on the staff and student authored Whiteknights Biodiversity Blog.

There are numerous modern Halls of Residence and all MSc students are eligible for this type of accommodation if they so desire (although it is recommended that self-catering halls are targeted to retain flexibility). A number of nature reserves and government and industrial bodies with interests relevant to the course are close to Reading. In addition, the University owns extensive areas of farmland in the adjacent countryside. An area of approximately four hectares of the Whiteknights campus is managed by students on a voluntary basis for wildlife.

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