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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Owen Middleton MSci Ecology and Conservation*2017

Owen Middleton's Photo

In 2015, my dissertation took me to Mexico to study the distribution and abundance of jaguars and pumas in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. The trip, organised by Operation Wallacea, brought together students and scientists from all around the world and aims to train the next generation of conservationists to understand how conservation research is completed.

Why did you choose the course you study?

I always had a fascination in biological sciences in a broad sense. However, my fascination in the natural world and Attenborough documentaries, and my dream of following in his footsteps, made me choose the ecology route within biological sciences. I wanted to be able to learn about our world and all of the incredible wildlife and ecosystems, and be able to share my passion with others. I also love being outside, nothing beats a stroll through the woods, especially looking for insects or deer tracks.

 

Why did you choose to study at Southampton?

First of all, the campus is an incredible place and the new life sciences building won me over. The first year compulsory field trip to Spain also made Southampton seem like the place to be. The fact that they make it compulsory for students to engage in fieldwork made me realise that lecturers wanted to throw students into the deep end to really understand field ecology and giving students experience that would help with future employment.

 

What do you enjoy most about studying at Southampton?

The green space around Southampton, both on campus and Southampton Common, gives a beautiful alternative for working than a hot library. Working in these green spaces breaks up the monotone routine of revision and makes you feel like you’re away from busy university life and somewhere in the countryside.

 

What is the student support like here?

In terms of academic support, supervisors have always been incredibly helpful when asked and have always pushed me to achieve my full potential by nudging me in the right direction. This is true for all lecturers as feedback is always available. Personal relationships built up over the years with these lecturers has given me a sense of security within the University if I have any issues, both personal and academic.

 

Do you have opportunities to put theory into practice?

Yes, I have already mentioned the Spanish field-trip, which was incredible. Being out in the field for a prolonged period with others that share the same interest is the best experience possible. It also gives students a chance to build good relationships with lecturers and academics, which only adds to your experience as a student and makes the rest of university life that much easier.

I was lucky enough to join this trip again in my second year as a demonstrator. Having a kind of leadership role at such an early time in my career as an ecologist only fuelled my passion for the subject and made me realise that I want to share this with the world and continue inspiring others.

In 2015, my dissertation took me to Mexico to study the distribution and abundance of jaguars and pumas in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. The trip, organised by Operation Wallacea, brought together students and scientists from all around the world and aims to train the next generation of conservationists to understand how conservation research is completed.

It was an experience of a lifetime and one of the toughest I have had. It included trekking in draining temperatures, camping in often uncomfortable conditions and so many insect bites! But I now know I want to pursue a career in conservation. Working with international partners in fragile environments where human-wildlife conflicts must be managed carefully, is exactly what I want to do.

*Course formerly titled MEcol Ecology.

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