Proper consultancy work!

So, to keep me on my toes – Rob sent me to an unidentified (as the planning application has not gone in yet) university campus, for the entire week, to manage a team of highly experienced bat workers on one of the largest individual emergence bat survey projects Arbtech have ever done, with a contract value in excess of £25,000! No pressure or anything…

The project is on a campus with no less than 18 buildings that needed to be surveyed, within a relatively time tight scale. It was the start of June and some of the buildings required three surveys, each a month apart, so we needed to get cracking immediately.

Where do I start?

Firstly, I read the scoping bat survey report and retrieved the list of buildings that needed to be surveyed (relatively simple, because it was pretty much all of them) and then I identified those buildings that needed the full three surveys, as opposed to two or one, so we could make a start in the most efficient manner possible.

Fellow Arbtecher, Martin O’Connor and I were able to work together to construct a schedule for the umpteen dusk and dawn surveys on site, starting the following Monday. Luckily, during the summer we have the help some amazing sub-contractors that we have used for years and can always rely on, when jobs like these stretch our in house resources a little further than we would otherwise be able to cope with. (We were absolutely flat out booked for weeks when this order came through and needed starting right away).

We begin a long but rewarding week

When I arrived on site on the Monday afternoon, I introduced myself to the project staff and spoke to all the other surveyors to ensure everyone knew where they needed to be and all the kit was functioning correctly. No sooner than were settled in, the surveys were due to begin.

This was a great chance to get some dawn survey experience, as besides the survey on my bat handing and ident course, I had never done a dawn survey. It was pretty cool: my favourite part was when I witnessed pipistrelles swarming; it was light enough for me to see their behaviour and interactions with the buildings (their habitat). They almost looked they were dancing and the whole thing lasted for about ten minutes. Over the course of the week there was plenty of activity on site in general, as several of the buildings were the equivalent of huge bat boxes, i.e. wooden, with plenty of access points. Connectivity to high quality, nearby woodland areas on the edges of the campus also increased the value of the campus to the local bat populations.

By the end of the week, the ‘dusk/dawn/repeat’ lifestyle was taking its toll and I must confess to being very tired indeed. To make it an even better learning experience, Martin even managed to send me on my very own extended phase 1 habitat survey, which by chance was just 5 minutes away! However tired I was though, it was definitely a really interesting, worthwhile week.

Besides utterly torrential rain on the morning of a dawn survey, resulting in me calling it off to avoid getting a false negative result, everything ran relatively smoothly (phew). As usual, this was daunting at first but turned out to be a real confidence boost – not so much in the sense that I deepened my technical ecology skills, as I often write about in my previous journals, (even though it was great as got a lot of survey hours racked up during that week); but the benefit was more of ‘I can handle project responsibility’. It’s was also nice to confirm that what Martin and Rob thought I could manage, I indeed can. This was arguably the most rewarding part of the week, but don’t tell them that!


A message from Amy

Thanks for reading this instalment. The next journal blog will be up soon, as I chronicle my journey from ecology zero to consultancy hero. If you’d like an automatic notification of this, follow us on twitter (@superfastsurvey) or sign up to our mailing list below. Please also feel free to share this and leave any comments below. Are you trying to break into the ecological consultancy industry, or are you a graduate trainee like me? I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what courses you enjoyed, or share your thoughts if you’ve been on a similar or the same course as me! You may also be interested to know that you could gain experience by helping Arbtech with a seasonal work opportunity.