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Richard Cottrell BSc Biology, 2007

Richard Cottrell's Photo

The phrase “dream job” is generally overused by recruiters, but if you were writing a specification for Richard Cottrell’s position, that’s exactly how you would describe it. However, the Biological Sciences graduate has no intention of moving on at the moment!

It’s a fantastic job, I’m getting paid for doing something I really enjoy in a wonderful location in the sun, so I really can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be!

Richard works as a field biologist for a company based in Singapore, which offers structured programmes to students who want to work on their dissertation. Exploring tropical islands, examining exotic specimens, tracking, snorkelling and scuba diving are all part of his daily routine.

Richard’s BSc in Biology, which he achieved in 2007, led him to this job a few months after graduation. He heard through a friend who graduated with him that someone needed a biologist to help run field trips in the South China Sea, so he applied for the job and was immediately accepted. The company, Eco Field Trips, offers study trips to school groups and undergraduates. South East Asia, Thailand, the Seychelles, South Africa and New Zealand are all on their destination list and they take students from Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Korea and also from the UK.

... and it's all part of the job!

One of the main study destinations is Tioman Island in the South China Sea, as it’s a haven for unusual animals, is sparsely populated and has incredible rainforests, reefs, mangrove swamps and seashores. Four one-month trips to the Island are run each year, with 10 to 20 students coming from UK universities, and Richard goes on most of them as a field biologist.

Students on this trip have a 4-day introductory course, then two weeks of supervised data collection, and they can also go on a diving course and a guided tour of Singapore. Their dissertations cover environmental science, ecological science, biology and zoology and students have to be fit, but can be of any age. They get to see walking catfish, the purple land crab and cave roach all of which are exclusive to the island. There are snakes, too, such as the blue pit viper and Richard recently had a close encounter with a king cobra. “It was quite alarming at the time,” he says, but an incredible experience nonetheless.”

Richard was always keen on marine biology, and he took a gap year after leaving school, working to save enough to go to university in Southampton. In his second year of study in Biological Sciences, he went abroad to do his dissertation in Indonesia, a move which he says was really crucial in helping him get his present job. “I had a fantastic time at Southampton and made a lot of friends,” he says. I loved the biology degree course, and at some stage I may apply to do postgraduate study, but at the moment I’m quite happy living in Singapore and travelling around.”

In January he has a break from the job as there are no courses, and he takes the opportunity to come to the UK to see relatives, but he is already busy planning a trip off the cost of Borneo.

“It’s a fantastic job,” Richard says, “I’m getting paid for doing something I really enjoy in a wonderful location in the sun, so I really can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be!”

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