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Sophie May Watts BSc Biology2016

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I enjoyed the fact that the course can be more specific and tailored towards the later years of the degree programme, helping to create a unique degree specific to individual interests and aspirations.

What made you select to come to study at Southampton?

I wanted to study in Southampton as it is close to my family home and therefore I was able to grab all the opportunities available within driving distance. I had never visited the University until I received my unconditional offer and attended a visit day, after which I firmed Southampton and withdrew from all other universities.

What have been your Southampton ‘highlights’ (best experiences) so far?

My highlights at Southampton are the field trip to Spain in my first year where I got to know everyone on my course and increase the strength of existing friendships. I also enjoyed being on the BioSoc committee as the Education Rep. In this role I organised a talk from Simon Watt from Inside Nature's Giants and took part in the naked calendar for RAG.

What opportunities have you taken up (within your degree programme and extra-curricular)? In what ways are they helping your personal development?

Outside of my studies I am a volunteer animal keeper on the bird section at Marwell Wildlife, volunteer bird keeper at The Hawk Conservancy Trust and a Biodiversity Management Intern at Marwell Wildlife. These are ongoing roles that have increased my animal husbandry knowledge and current knowledge in the zoo industry and issues surrounding animals in captivity. These roles, particularly the internship, have enabled me to work in a professional environment outside university which will stand me in good stead for employment.

Have you had any exposure to employer involvement or research led learning during your course? How will this help you achieve your ambition?

In addition to the internship with Marwell Wildlife organised by the University, there have been careers fairs, one of which was organised by BioSoc, that allow students to meet with employers and ask specific questions. From events such as these and by being an attentive student, I have realised the importance of networking and endeavour to forge new and useful career contacts throughout my time as an undergraduate.

What are you enjoying most about your course?

I enjoyed the fact that the course can be more specific and tailored towards the later years of the degree programme, helping to create a unique degree specific to individual interests and aspirations.

Do you have the opportunity to study modules outside of your core subject area, and how do you think they are adding to your experience / will affect your future plans?

My course is very flexible and I was able to take a Geography module on particularly useful software called GIS. I successfully secured a placement year with The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, with whom I will be working as a GIS assistant. I feel that my knowledge of this software at a basic level gave me an advantage over other candidates from Biological Sciences.

What networking, employment and work experience opportunities have you undertaken and how have they enhanced your undergraduate experience?

In addition to the ongoing volunteer roles mentioned, I have completed numerous work experience placements since I started in Southampton. In the summer of first year I spent three weeks in Scotland working with the Scottish Beaver Trial, the first legal mammal reintroduction to the UK. After this, I then spent three weeks at The New Forest Wildlife Park as a Keeper. In Easter of this year I will be spending two weeks at The Wildlife Heritage Foundation working with big cats, and for my dissertation in the summer I will be going to Portugal for six weeks to monitor rabbit population size in relation to the Iberian Lynx.

All of these placements will provide me with new skills such as field sign surveys, use of camera traps and basic animal husbandry and handling techniques. Through organising these placements I have had the opportunity to meet professionals in the field and form career bonds which may prove beneficial to me after graduation.

Do you have any idea of what you would like to do in the future? Have the opportunities you have taken up while at the University helped you have a clearer idea of what you might like to do?

I would like to complete a PhD and have a career based on boreal species such as those found in Scotland, Scandinavia, Canada and North America. Throughout university I have been more aware of the difficulties in gaining a job in such a competitive field as conservation biology, but I have seized every opportunity available to me both inside and outside of university in order to maximise my chances.

My work experience placements have become increasingly tailored to the type of career I am interested in and I feel that when I graduate from Southampton I will not only be employable, but desirable and highly sought after in the work place.

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