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The University of Southampton
Biological SciencesUndergraduate study

Going wild in the country

Monitoring grass snakes and other wildlife with Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

BSc Biology, graduated 2009 - placement in conjunction with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
Louise Fairless

Louise Fairless loves the outdoor life and has worked at a wildlife park in the New Forest since her early teens. Having taken A levels in Biology, Maths and French and AS in Chemistry at school in Ringwood, Hampshire, a Biology degree at Southampton’s School of Biological Sciences was a natural choice for Louise – and she achieved a coveted first.

A valuable opportunity

After graduating, Louise worked as a volunteer on a summer project run by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust at Testwood Lakes nature reserve near Totton. Her monitoring of the grass snake population involved setting up several ‘refugias’ – sheets of metal or roofing felt which prove attractive to snakes and other animals wanting a warm, dark place to settle in.

Twice a week, she visited the sites to inspect their contents and found grass snakes, caterpillars and other creatures. It was her responsibility to catalogue her findings; snakes were recorded with names, photographs and details of the pattern on their heads to identify them if they were found again.

“I was really lucky to get this opportunity”, says Louise. “I’m not sure exactly what I will do in future but I know my experience at Southampton will be very valuable.”

A range of modules

Louise enjoyed the academic and social side of student life at Southampton as well as the convenience of the location. Her dissertation involved a study of bat ecology on Forestry Commission land at Wareham in Dorset and she really enjoyed getting up early to find out what was going on in the bat boxes and watch the deer moving through the forest.

“It was a really good programme which offered plenty of interesting modules, and studying locally meant I could continue working part-time with the reptiles and birds of prey at Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre near Ringwood,” she says.

BSc Biology

Predicting the effects of climate change, investigating how animals and plants depend upon each other, understanding the impact of biofuels on food supply – biologists are essential to the world we live in.

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