Dominic Barringer

Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques

Dominic made a career change into environmental management.  However, he lacked the formal qualifications and skills to make confident, evidence-based decisions about conservation.  He took the PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques and was surprised by the support on offer for online learning.

For the past few years I have been working as a ranger in East London and currently manage two nature reserves, which were both formerly part of a Victorian waterworks. The job is very varied and a typical day can see me doing anything from feeding pigs, undertaking practical habitat management, or running a guided walk.

I got into conservation through volunteering after leaving a career in music retail. I didn’t have any related formal qualifications so was looking to complete a course in a relevant discipline. I’m a firm believer that habitat management should be based on evidence but lacked the skills to gain good quality evidence myself and the PGCert seemed to be the best solution.

The face-to-face week was brilliant. I met some very interesting people and really enjoyed the opportunity to visit Wytham Woods. The course is very well structured with lots of support throughout the modules and lots of contact from the tutors to make sure you can get the most from the information and material available. The most challenging aspect for me was self-discipline. I had probably underestimated how hard it can be to come home from work thoroughly tired and then sit down and carry on with a couple of hours college work.

I was a little unsure about studying online but was pleasantly surprised. The University online library service is comprehensive to say the least and the tutors very knowledgeable and helpful. There is lots of feedback throughout and the discussion forums are a great way to share ideas and thoughts.

My fieldwork project was looking to establish information about the grass snake population of one of the reserves I manage. I’ve always been fascinated by snakes and there were good anecdotal reports of grass snakes on the reserve. I was keen to establish how the snakes were using the site and implement some management changes to benefit them. In the end I found good evidence that there is a breeding population and have been able to adapt site management to protect and enhance breeding areas. The fieldwork itself was great fun and I was lucky that I could fit much of it in with my normal working day. It will also enable me to continue surveying the population to see how well the management changes are working, and has given me the confidence to use structured and well thought out surveying to look at site management and improve how things are done.

If you are thinking of going for the course then I would whole heartedly recommend it. The tutors are at the top of their field and you can only benefit from their knowledge and experience. It can be difficult to study whilst working full time and you may have to make a few sacrifices to keep on track but the commitment will pay dividends in the end.