Learn Ecological survey techniques online whilst you work with the University of Oxford

This week we’ve spoken with Dr Jocelyne Hughes, Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques at the University of Oxford. She shares her insights into online learning for careers in ecology and conservation, and how they can help people to learn remotely whilst they work.

What online courses do you offer at Oxford for people who are interested in careers in Conservation or Ecology?

The courses that I personally direct are part of a programme which is at postgraduate level in Ecological survey techniques. It’s a modular programme, designed for people who work full time and want to study part time and is very flexible. Students can take it over three years’ maximum, or over one-year minimum, so they can more easily fit it in within the rest of their lives.

The first module is a face to face module. Students come to Oxford and it’s a good bonding experience for everybody. We do lots of practical fieldwork, but the main core of the week is getting to grips with GIS, or Geographical Information Systems, using free software called QGIS.

After that everything is online. We have a diversity of different modules and they don’t have to do them all. There’s two compulsory modules. One is in data analysis, which is basically statistics, and they learn how to use an open source software package called R. We really emphasise open source software because it means there’s no licensing issues later on, and anyone can use them for free.

The second core module is Field techniques for surveying vegetation and is about how to assess habitats in order to manage and make evidence-based decisions for your target organism.

moth trapping

How has the course helped people in their careers?

It has helped them a lot by getting them promotions from within their organisation.

What I’m really proud of is that it helps a lot of students who don’t have a first degree, but have masses of practical experience, to actually get a paper qualification and they turn out to be some of our very best students.

What we’ve found is that some students who come out with a Postgraduate Certificate from Oxford will use that to get onto a Master’s programme, either in the UK or elsewhere. So it’s a good entry mechanism for even further career development.

I guess it’s also nice for people who are in a job but they’re looking to develop and maybe even move career or whatever that might be and they can learn on the side whilst also having an income as well?

Yes, exactly – they don’t lose their income. They can combine their previous, possibly unrelated, skills but there’s always going to be something to get out of it with their new found skills in Ecology. And then they can also do some volunteering which, as you know, is essential if you’re trying to get a job in conservation.

Do you take people from non-ecological or conservation backgrounds?

Definitely. Every year we get a little core of people like that.

For example one of my students at the moment had a career as a Software Engineer. He does a lot of conservation volunteering, and he’s now also doing this programme and is gradually building up to apply to conservation and ecology jobs. He’ll have a really good skillset by the time he’s finished.

For people who want to switch careers into conservation and ecology, it’s important not to forget the other skills that they have because they can be so useful. I think they make very good candidates, those sorts of people who’ve had previous careers and want a change in career.

Finally, how do people find out more and also the details of how they apply?

Well they just have to get onto our website, so it’s all there. And you have to get onto the graduate admissions website at the University using these links:

Department website for our standalone courses and PGCert – https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/professional/staticdetails.php?course=243

Central University Graduate Admissions Site for the PGCert in Ecological Survey Techniques – https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/courses/pgcert-ecological-survey-techniques

Careers Advice, Interviews, Senior Level, Scientist