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The University of Southampton
Biological SciencesOur alumni

Phoebe Cross BSc Biology, 2014

Project Officer, The Ecology Consultancy

Phoebe Cross's Photo

My tutor was always available if I needed to discuss any concerns

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?          

Initially I wasn’t even going to consider Southampton, as it was my local city (and no way was I living that close to my parents!), however after going on the open day I felt the university really suited me and the Biological Sciences department was really informative, with welcoming students and staff. It just clicked and I’m so glad I ended up studying there.

What were your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences)?

I really enjoyed the ecology module in my first year, which was a field trip to Spain studying classification and biodiversity. I was lucky enough to go back as a demonstrator in my second year  too – not only was it fun but I learnt a lot about running and teaching a course.

Another highlight was being very involved in the student’s union. I became president of the Alternative and Indie Music Society (AIM) in my third year, running regular music events, organising a small team and presenting a radio show on Surge. I’m still close friends with many of the people I met through becoming involved with this (I live with two of them)!

I went to university wanting to form a band, and one I started in my third year (Happy Accidents) played Reading and Leeds Festivals last year and we’ve been played on BBC Radio 1 multiple times which is pretty crazy! I wouldn’t be doing tours of the UK and Europe if I hadn’t met the people I did! We’ll be playing at Common People festival in this year too so I’m looking forward to returning to Southampton Common where I used to visit a lot.

What other activities did you take advantage of while at University?

I did a year out placement between my second and third year working at Southampton University’s Clinical Trial Unit as a Quality and Regularity Assistant, which was an invaluable experience, working on the smooth running of medical studies. I appreciated being able to defer my degree for a year to get some useful experience and then jump straight back in refreshed to my third year.

What did you enjoy most about your course?   

I enjoyed learning a broad overview of Biology to start with, then specialising in the area I was interested in the most – ecology, evolution and biodiversity. I wrote an essay on the flight evolution of dinosaurs in my third year which I personally think is pretty awesome. It was nice to be able to pick some modules in Environmental Science and Geography – such as Environmental Impact Assessments and GIS. I come across these areas often in my current line of work so it was useful to have the flexibility of doing modules from different courses. 

I like that there’s so much research going on in the department, with most of the lecturers having active projects on the go. For my dissertation based in the New Forest biodiversity, I worked with an amazing PhD student called Rebecca Spake and as a result regularly visited the Natural History Museum for help in identifying my collection of beetle specimens. 

What have been the highlights of your career to date?

My highlight has been joining the team at The Ecology Consultancy (TEC) at their London office (as well as working in an area I’m interested in, it also meant moving to a new city). I initially joined as a Field Ecologist where I was working on site a lot, undertaking survey for species such as Great Crested Newts, reptile and bats. I am now in an office based role as a Project Officer, working in business development, bid and tender management, project accounting as well as client communication and marketing. TEC is one of the largest and most successful ecology consultancies in the country, and it’s great to have an input in minimising and mitigating biodiversity loss in construction projects, and work for an expanding company.

I’d be lying if I said working in a friendly office in a beautiful location on the Thames, with a steady stream of friendly dogs and delicious baked goods isn’t also a welcome bonus too!

How did your time at Southampton help you to grow as a person and help you get to where you are now?

I met so many encouraging and supportive people at Southampton and took as many opportunities as I could and as a result definitely grew in confidence. My tutor was always available if I needed to discuss any concerns, and with the friends on my course it felt more like we were in it together, rather than competing for the best grades.   

The university are very good with careers advice, and one of my lecturers used to circulate internship and job openings, which is how I ended up with my first job. I started it pretty much as soon as I’d finished my last exam, working as an Assistant Ecologist at a local planning and architectural company. That definitely got my current career path moving in the direction it did. 

What advice would you give to a student starting their degree at Southampton?

Everyone has their individual experience but I personally got a lot from becoming involved in societies, as it gave me lifelong friendships and some great experiences to be able to talk about in job interviews (as well as just in general!).

I guess I’d say take opportunities if they feel right, don’t take yourself or your degree too seriously but do get the right balance of your work and leisure time. If you’re struggling with anything, talk to people, as more often than not they’re having difficulties with stuff too. Enjoy your time as an undergraduate because it does go very fast and you’ll almost certainly look back on positively if you made the most of it! 

What tips would you give to current students looking to start a career in your sector?  

For people wanting to work in ecological and environmental consultancy, definitely volunteering with local companies would be a good start. Look into courses that might be happening over the summer (e.g. with The Species Recovery Trust), and perhaps get a student membership at CIEEM.


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