Podcast: Sue Searle | Ecology Training UK

Do you enjoy getting out into the field, identifying plants, animals, insects and more? And would you like to be paid for doing this and spend your career surveying for protected species and habitats whilst implementing the law to identify and avoid harmful impacts on them? Then a career as an ecological consultant might be perfect for you.

To explore this practical, well paid and highly trained area of conservation, we’re speaking with Sue Searle, CEO of Ecology Training UK. Sue has over 17 years’ experience of ecological consultancy and has helped hundreds of people to get the right training to enter into the sector.

We discuss what it’s like to work as an ecological consultant, the typical roles available, types of people it suits and skills sought by employers. We also explore her career journey and Sue shares her top advice for people looking to get started in this exciting area of work. As always, it’s a wide ranging, career boosting discussion. Enjoy.

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Audio Transcript 

Sue Searle   

Hi, I’m Sue Searle and I am Principal Ecologist and Senior Tutor at Ecology Training UK. 

Nick   

Fab and really nice to meet you Sue thanks for jumping on the podcast. We’re really excited to see the training that you guys are providing. And I think through the podcast today, what we want to dive into really is about working as an ecological consultant. So we’ve got lots of people who are interested in the sector, some with more, you know, information than others, and I want to kind of just start by kind of just yeah, let’s route around as to what an ecological consultant is. So what typically what would a consultant be doing as sort of junior end of the spectrum, what sorts of roles? 

Sue Searle   

Usually when you start as a junior consultant, you’re doing the sort of lower skilled stuff like perhaps reptile surveys, dormouse surveys and you’ll start getting involved in starting to use equipment and making records and stuff like that. And so yeah, it tends to be the sort of what we call the donkey work if you like this, so the more senior people are writing the really complicated reports and writing licences, European protected species licences and things like that, the juniors are doing the fun bit, which is going out and playing with slow worms and stuff and it’s quite fun actually. And as they get better skills, so obviously you start at the bottom, and even I started at the bottom, I’m a career changer myself and I was a nurse and a midwife, originally had a midlife crisis went to uni when I was 39 and set up my first consultancy, when I was about 45. We’d never done it before and I realised that I was a junior as well. So I just called myself an assistant ecologist, even though I was the only ecologist and worked my way up as, as anybody else would have done by helping people with their reptile surveys and then getting clued up on the bat surveys and doing things like badger survey seeing if badgers are around or otters or something like that. And also phase one habitat mapping. So mapping sites, when you do your initial visit to a site, you assess it for wildlife and you map the habitats.  

Nick   

What’s the purpose of the mapping? And what’s the purpose of the early surveys that you do what you’re trying to? 

Sue Searle   

You’re just going along to scope it out, really and find out whether there’s any issues, ecological issues on site, so you need to know what’s the plan, and I work for well my consultancy is a small consultancy, we only got up to 10 you know, 10 was the maximum we got up to. And so for that you would be going along to the site, you would assess the site and we’d only be working on fairly small developments or on conversions or something like that. So you’d go along to the site, having never seen it before. You’d know where it is in the country sort of thing. And you’d know, sort of what to expect in a way because you can look at aerials and maps and things like that to see what you think is going to be there and maybe do a bit of data trawl and see what’s around. And then you turn up at the site to usually meet the client, and then you will map for habitat so that you can do like a baseline of what’s on the site and then you’ll have a thorough look around. list all the species that you see like the plant species, the birds, any mammals tracks and signs, any insects that you see butterflies or whatever. And yeah, so you’ll you’re basically trying to work out what habitat have you got present there for what species could be present. For example, if you’ve got long grass in the sun in the morning, that’s good reptile habitat. So the scoping surveys is basically to then go forward to what we call phase two surveys, which is where people go out and do more specialist in depth surveys. So something like a reptile survey or a Dormouse survey or a bat survey. So juniors get involved in both of those. So, so mapping and scoping at the beginning, and then writing an initial report. And then the phase two surveys are sort of like when you go along to a site, you see some long grass in the sun in the morning, you don’t necessarily see a reptile. So you have to put equipment out and you know, do a survey methodology and see if you can see reptiles that way. Same with dormouse, you have to put out nest tubes and you leave them out and check them once a month for a few months. So, yeah, so they get involved in all of that really. I think the thing that juniors don’t get so much involved in is, like I said before the really technical report writing. But we do like to get them involved in report writing, because plenty in a report that they can write, like, describing the site, maybe describing the habitats and things like that. But the actual decisions on what mitigation might be required or what are the legal implications are of the project, those sorts of things would perhaps have to be discussed first with senior personnel, the senior person. 

Nick   

Right. Okay. So it’s especially it’s something I did 10- 15 years ago now for a couple of years out of university and it I think it particularly seems to suit people who are really good in the field, obviously, at the beginning, as you described, you’re out in the field a lot. You need to have quite good identification skills. And I guess to put it in my own terms, you know, if there’s a site has been earmarked for development, it might be a bound to be converted or a field that’s going to be dug up and made into a car park or a house or something like that and many species are protected by law and habitat. So it’s your job as a consultant to go in, identify which species are or might be there, and then follow with more detail surveys to confirm on advising clients. Yeah. And why are certain you’ve mentioned quite a few species, though you’ve mentioned dormouse and newts and lizards and other reptiles and various plants and why is there a certain list? Or what particular species are of significant importance when you’re doing these sorts of surveys because you’re not looking for every species or categorise everything that are certain priorities isn’t there? 

Sue Searle   

Yes, exactly. So the priority is to look for birds or animals that are protected under legislation. And also how are they protected under the legislations those for example, a slow worm is protected against being killed or injured. So if you’ve got a site where they’re going to take all the vegetation off and build some houses, then the slow worms would need to be moved, so they don’t get killed and injured. But then a dormouse is fully protected species, and it’s a European protected species as well. So if you want to do anything, so after you’ve done your surveys, if you find that you have got dormice, then you have to do a mitigation plan and you have to have a European protected species licence to do any work around any of those European protected species. So that includes Otters, Bats, Great Crested Newts, Sand Lizards, Smooth Snakes, but there’s a whole load of animals that are European protected species and that’s where you have to jump through a lot more hoops and you might actually need to have a survey licence, a personal survey licences to be able to even do the survey. Yeah so the good news on that is that while you’re training you can work with or under somebody else’s licence as long as they’re happy that you’re, you know, skilled enough to do the job properly sort of thing. So it’s something that people do work towards is their licences so they can do surveys lawfully. And that’s something that I always recommend people get involved in is thinking about which protected species they’re likely to be involved in at work, depending on where they are. So I’m down in Devon, and we’ve hardly got any grey crested newts but we’ve got tonnes of bats. I’m not a massive expert on grey crested newts for that reason, so just hardly had to encounter them at all because we just don’t have them down here. And bats I’m a, you know, badgers I’m a real expert on because I’ve had spent years and years and every site that I go to we have those species so yeah. So the great thing is that you can start off just doing the basic surveys but you always have things to learn and places to experience and things to do that are really interesting and I’ve I haven’t for a minute been bored in this job. I’ve absolutely loved it.  

Nick   

So it’s a good sign isn’t it? Well what type of person does consultancy typically suit you know, who are the people who leave education or whatever, and then quite rapidly come into the field and you know, really bring something you are looking for? 

Sue Searle   

I think most people are sort of outdoorsy. We did have someone that was not like on her CV, she said that she liked reading books and doing Tai Chi and knitting. And then I had another girl that started at the same time and she liked hiking, cycling, canoeing and all that sort of thing and then the one that was more outdoorsy just embraced this because sometimes you’re walking up and down, you’re out in the weather and you’re getting hot or you’re getting cold or getting wet or you know, if you don’t like that sort of thing, then probably not really for you. So this other girl was like, didn’t like getting muddy and wasn’t very fit. So she struggled really with a lot of fieldwork. So I think you need to be fit and outdoorsy really. If you’re not interested in wildlife, then you’ll never be passionate about this. So you have to be obviously interested in wildlife and keen to learn more and more. So if you like wildlife, then you’ll just want to learn more and more anyway, so it makes it easy. Yeah. 

Nick   

Do people require good, you know, identification skills already or, you know, do you often just employ people based on the fact that they’re outdoorsy and they have a real passion and interest in wildlife, knowing you can sort of train them up into what they know? 

Sue Searle   

Yeah, I think really, when I’m hiring juniors, I’m more looking for an attitude a positive kind of go get them, keen to learn hopeful, you know, that sort of person I’m looking for and I can train them, like you said, I can train them on the other stuff, but so the ID skills are good if they do come with the ID skills. One of the things that’s sadly lacking in the juniors is the botanical skills is to actually be able to identify plants. And so it’s definitely something that I recommend people have a go at. But it’s something you can build on over time as well. And I was quite lucky because I’d been taught plants when I was younger by my mum. And then when I went to university, I was the best one at plants in the whole of the 120 in the and I ended up helping the professor with a … that couldn’t identify plants and you know, so I was then able to learn more by teaching it and I sort of started teaching when I was still at uni, really, because I was teaching people about botany then. So it is difficult if you can’t identify plants because obviously all the habitats are made up of plants. And if you don’t know you’re standing on heathland or what sort of woodland you’re standing in, then it’s a bit of a problem. But it’s not something that’s impossible to learn.  

Nick   

It feels like with plants, if you can identify plants, of which there are literally thousands of different types, you can quickly identify other things like mammals and transfer those sorts of skills across it’s a good starting place. 

Sue Searle   

Yes, exactly. And something like, you know, mammal ID, I think is, you can get up to speed quite quickly on that, really, because we’ve got 56 land mammals and 17 bats. 

Nick   

Not many yeah. 

Sue Searle   

Talk about plants we’re talking about sort of 350-400 species. And then you’ve got the grasses and the sedges and it goes on and on. So I think so. But yeah, it’s definitely worth learning your plants and getting up to speed with that.  

Nick   

That’s great and even you mentioned a few times you’ve had quite a varied career yourself. In fact, you started the ecology side sort of mid career. So what’s your career been like so far? So, you know, what have been your career steps? 

Sue Searle   

Well, when I left school, I wanted to go to Art College, and I still haven’t been to Art College. Time for me to retire now but anyway, my parents wouldn’t let me and my mom had been a nurse. So they basically, you know, encouraged me to become a nurse. So I did that. And I actually was a nurse for 15 years and I also trained to be a midwife, but I didn’t do that for as long as I did nursing. But I’m an outdoors person, and I love being outdoors and I could literally live outdoors. I love it. And I love wildlife. I always loved it when I was a child and I always had jars of revolting creatures and stuff, you know, grow a little garden on my windows sill, things like that. And so nursing just didn’t do it for me. You know, clinical environment you can’t even see out of the windows, you’re looking after people who are ill, you’re looking at it’s not a great environment for somebody like me. Also being quite creative as well, I struggled with that. The nearest I got to creativity was arranging flowers in a vase, I think it was like, you know, literally not being creative at all, and then also being a huge machine and in a tiny little cog in that machine as well. It just didn’t. I didn’t like it. But I did do it for 15 years, so obviously wasn’t that bad. Yeah.  

Nick   

What took you that long to realise that something wasn’t quite right and you wanted to do this other thing?  

Sue Searle   

Well, I started getting involved with the local mammal group, the Wildlife Trust was doing things called Wild nights out, and they wanted help for that. So, I used to go out with this guy that used to run these camps for kids and take them out at night and stuff. But it was absolutely fantastic. And I just started to realise that in from the mammal group, for example, that there were a few people working in conservation or a lot of people actually working in either conservation or consultancy in it. I started to realise that it was an option to actually make that the career and then of course, I realised that probably I would need to go to university as well. So yeah, so the past started like that, really. 

Nick   

And what do you most enjoy about the sorts of work that you do, your consultancy and what do you find most challenging? What would you share that’s going to be the least enjoyable aspects? 

Sue Searle   

Enjoyable is being out and being actually paid to go out and, you know, sneak around a field or something animals, plants and stuff and just like, wow, I get paid to do this.   

Nick   

It’s one of the few jobs that does that really? I guess science or research allows it as well. But really, those are the two, yeah.   

Sue Searle   

There’s something like bat survey in the evening. You’re standing at sunset and you’re watching sunset in this beautiful Devon valley with this lovely old barn in front of you and you’re getting paid to actually just watch bats and just write a few things down and you just think, oh, this is heaven, you know. So I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening really. So watch bats. Definitely beats watching TV anyway. But you learn so much as well when you’re working. So it’s just really fun. So I think the downsides might be you can get very tired because obviously, in the summer, everything’s buzzing and slithering and flying around. And so, extra hours in the summer and that can be quite tough. Sometimes you might have to get up early to do a reptile survey and then stay up late and do a bat survey. So you might work really long hours. Some consultancies are not very good at making sure you get enough rest, but I when I ran my consultancy, I always made sure people had their time off. They used to be four days a week, but long days you know and have Friday sort of thing. 

Nick   

I guess that could be quite seasonal kind of there’s just busy periods in a year. 

Sue Searle   

Yeah. So from sort of April to September sometimes well into October depending on the temperatures around its really busy you know, so you’re working days and evenings as well. But like I say, when you’re working and it doesn’t feel like work, it doesn’t really but you will get tired and you will miss out on things I guess your social life might suffer a little bit but we don’t work weekends. So you know, if you’re, you know, you knock off on Friday afternoon and or earlier if you’ve been working all week, and then you’ve got your weekends free and you just come back on Monday and start again. So yeah.  

Nick   

Has its benefits has its pros and cons. We classify Conservation Careers like ecological consultancy as you know, part of the broader picture where you helping to enhance, conserve, protect wildlife. Do you also I mean, do you consider consultancy part of conservation too or not because I can sort of see both sides of it? 

Sue Searle   

We’ve certainly got a lot of power because when you write a report and you recommend certain things that they have to do, it often ends up being in the Planning Commission, and they have to do it. I would say every opportunity that I can to put in as much enhancement as possible, and under National Planning Policy Framework, they’ve got to enhance sites for wildlife anyway.   

Nick   

Right  

Sue Searle   

So the good thing about that is you can only do that if you start with a site of low ecological value in the first place. You can add stuff to it. I’ve never been comfortable about working on big infrastructure projects, because, for example, HST that’s happening at the moment – I couldn’t work on that.   

Nick   

Which is a big railway connecting north and south of the UK for overseas friends. 

Sue Searle   

Yeah to save 20 minutes on a journey on a train. No way, would I want to see ancient woodlands being nuked and, you know, bat race destroyed and things like that just for a railway. So I couldn’t do that. And so working on the housing developments and the sort of barn conversions and things like that was more about helping the client to realise, you know, to try and make this project work. So for example, if there’s a barn that’s a bat roost, if you don’t look after the barn, it’ll eventually fall over and then it won’t be a bat roost anymore. And so in some ways, I think it’s better to convert it and actually put a bat roost into it that’s properly designed. Yeah. So we do lots of mitigation suggestions and enhancement suggestions and they just have to, you know, do what we say basically. So we’ll get that clients permission. 

Sue Searle   

So you said that you do have power yeah. We’re talking a bit about UK context here as well. But we have listeners from all across the globe. Do you know how different is consultancy in different countries? Is it different species, different habitats, but quite similar skills and people required? Or does it vary quite a bit? 

Sue Searle   

I should imagine it would be very similar. Yeah. I mean, the legislation of right across Europe should be uniform. So it’s the same species you know, listed, although, in Britain, we don’t have as many species as they do in Europe. And we’d like to have them like beavers, and wolves and bears and things like that. And links.  

Nick   

All the cool stuff   

Sue Searle   

One day.  

Nick   

Yeah.  

Sue Searle   

So yeah, so the legislation across Europe should be the same. And I think, you know, in other countries, wildlife legislation is the key to this because it’s all about if you’ve got protected species, you need to ensure that you’re protecting the species. So you know, it’s about assessing whether they’re there and thinking about what you can do to mitigate for them. If they’re there or protect them in some way or even prevent the development from happening. That’s only happened twice in my consultancy career where I’ve just said, look, I don’t think that we can mitigate for this and I don’t think you’ve got a good reason to do this. So there’s part of the licensing. You actually have to say that there’s a good reason to do the barn conversion or whatever it is. And if it’s not good enough, a good enough reason, you won’t get a licence. So therefore, you won’t be able to proceed with the work. 

Nick   

And what was special about those two particular sites that you can recommend development? Obviously, there are things you might not want to share, but what could you share about that? 

Sue Searle   

Well, one of them he told me, he didn’t tell me but the planners told me there was a county wildlife site. So if it’s a county wildlife site, then there’s a presumption against not developing that. There was another one that was adjacent to a national nature reserve, and he just thought that he could build whatever he wanted, and we could do some mitigation for it. And I said, I don’t think we can. I really don’t think that what you’re planning to do, will ever work in this situation. Because it was next to a nationally important bat roost or greater horseshoe bats and they don’t like light. So if you’re going to suddenly have a dark site, go into housing and have some lights and stuff, it doesn’t matter how many stipulations you put in about lighting, people are going to have their lights on and their curtains open and those bats won’t use that site anymore. So yeah, that one didn’t happen. And then there was another one where the guy had a really gorgeous house. It was like a big house on a hill, overlooking the eastern area of outstanding natural beauty. And behind it was an ancient woodland. And when I went up into the loft, we found evidence of five different species living in his loft.  

Nick   

Of bats yeah?  

Sue Searle   

Yeah and he wanted to knock it down and build a new one. He was an architect. He just didn’t like the house. And I said, well, what’s wrong with the house? He said nothing. And I said, so you just don’t like it. And he said, Yeah, I want to build a new one. And I said, well, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to destroy the habitat of a roost for five species of bats. Because the licensing is to say, have you looked at alternatives including do nothing? And I couldn’t think of a way of justifying it. So I just said, no, sorry. 

Nick   

Anyways, you’re the enforcement on the ground for the legislation. But it does come down to a kind of a judgement call that you as the ecologist has to take, and I guess I can see it as a tension with what the developer wants to see happen and what the law says and, and obviously, you want to kind of keep working with these developers too so it can be quite tense at times. 

Sue Searle   

But the thing is, it’s our job to know the legislation and to apply it in our day to day work. So as I gave you illustration earlier about killing and injuring slow worm. And, you know, they can’t do anything about the law. And if they do what they want to do without moving the slow worms, then they’ll be breaking the law. So, you know, that doesn’t build well. The planners are not going to be impressed. They could get reported to the police, etc. And you don’t want to be advising your clients to do something that’s unlawful. So you just have to make it very clear what the law is. And if they do this, they could, you know, comply with the law, but if they don’t, they won’t be sort of thing. So, yeah. 

Nick   

Yeah. Interesting, really fascinating work. Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit and switch gears slightly and talk about Ecology Training UK. So that’s an organisation you’ve been running now for a couple of years, is it? 

Sue Searle   

It’s started last May. 

Nick   

Right 

Sue Searle   

Just over a year. 

Nick   

Year and a bit. Tell us about your Ecology Training UK because it’s obviously new to everyone, new to us. You know, what do you offer and you know, how are you helping people? 

Sue Searle   

My previous consultancy did training but we decided to move forward to just doing training on my own. So hence ecology training UK was born last year, but I’ve been doing training for 14 years. And basically I started with teaching people how to do phase one habitat mapping and how to recognise animal tracks and signs and how to do dormouse surveys and how to do badger surveys, otter surveys, etc. And so you usually have a classroom part of the course and then a field visit where you go and actually look for the things. And then I started teaching botany. And then about 11 years ago, I started teaching the certificate in ecological consultancy, which is my big package course that we run and basically that’s a training a complete training to become an ecological consultant. And it involves core skills, which is phase one, habitat mapping, surveying for protected species. So you learn how to survey for all sorts of different species like reptiles, dormice, bats, barges, otters, etc. and you learn about their ecology, their tracks and signs and the legislation relating to each of those. Then we also do how to write reports as well. So that’s the key skills that you do for a five day course. And then you choose three optional courses in topics that you’re interested in. So if you want to go into a bit more detail into grey crested newts for example, you can do that or you can learn botany or trees or something like that. Or bats that’s usually the most popular, bats and dormice are the most popular courses and grey crested newts. And then you have some assignments to do as well, so that so it’s a big, it’s a big training and at the end of it, you’ll be able to have a conversation at an interview about all the survey techniques, you can carry out all the knowledge that you’ve had, how you’ve written a report with how you’ve, you know, done all of those things. So that’s my big, that’s my baby really, that one. 

Nick   

Sounds like quite a baby as well. What’s the commitment for someone who is interested in that course? You mentioned five days, learning. 

Sue Searle   

Five days at the beginning. Then there are three optional courses. So they can be one or two day courses. So, up to another six days depending on which courses you choose and then probably another two to three weeks if you count all the assignments and we give lots of online courses, like there’s invasive species, mammal ID, amphibian and reptile ID, bird ID, things that they have to work through in their own time. So yes, it’s a comprehensive course and I’ve had over 350 people go on the course now. And people that were on it 11 years ago are senior and principal ecologists now. And I bumped into them at conferences and things. So I went to the dormouse conference. And yes, there is a dormouse conference. There were like 150 people there and I think it was something like 45 of the delegates were certificate students. 

Nick   

Wow. 

Sue Searle   

And I just thought, wow, you know, I was at the beginning of their careers helping them to get going in here they are principals and seniors and what have you. And you know, the number of people I’ve got into dormice as well is really good. So I really love doing that. It’s really a great thing and I love seeing people’s careers progress, you know, helping as much as I can. So like this year we had a bit of a disaster because COVID hit just before the core skills week. I had 30 people booked on the course to do five days and in two blocks of 15. And I basically had to teach it via webinars and videos and things like that. But they’re all doing really well like they can all do their phase one maps. Now we’ve got a WhatsApp groups and we’re always putting up pictures of things that we’re finding, we are giving lots of tips on how to get some work experience. And when somebody finds work experience, they give the others tips on how they got work experience and things like that.  

Nick   

What have you heard, like, you know, if someone did want to get work experience, what are the top tips that you share with people?  

Sue Searle   

There’s a Facebook group called British Ecologists. If you go onto that one and just say Hi, I’m learning to become an ecologist and you know, I’m just out of university or whatever. I want to get some experience and I live in XYZ, then people will sort of chip in and say, Oh yeah, you can come and help me if you like. The other thing you can do is write to your local consultancies and see if they need any help. They often hire subcontractors. So last year, I was doing a lot of that work with Ecology Training UK and I had quite a number of subcontractors because I can’t do a bat survey on my own. Sometimes you need like seven or eight people. So I just hire subcontractors to do reptile surveys and bat surveys and so that. So, people start doing that when they’re on certificate even when they’re still working full time in their day job. They start working subcontractors. 

Sue Searle   

I guess we evenings work quite well with bats and…  

Sue Searle   

Yeah exactly.

Nick   

Yes. Okay. And how important is it for someone to have a background in terms of education, so a degree or master’s that’s related to ecology or can someone you know, it’s take one of your courses and come out the other side of it without that direct training behind them and have a good chance of becoming a consultant? 

Sue Searle   

I think you’ve got a better chance of becoming a consultant if you have a relevant degree. I’ve got biological sciences, but you zoology.  

Nick   

Did you retrain then after nursing can go back to uni and be that way. And you think that’s a good route to take? 

Sue Searle   

Yeah, I did get a degree first. I think that without a degree, it’s sometimes a bit difficult to get started. But I’ve got people that are subcontractors that don’t have degrees. And so you can still do the work if you want.   

Nick   

Could you work up from there? And could those surveys become…  

Sue Searle   

Yeah I don’t see why not because eventually, I mean, for example, a bat worker, could be anybody really, and I know someone that was a postman, and he’s now bat consultant and, you know, he hasn’t got a relevant degree, but he is a bat expert. And you can’t take that away from somebody can you? If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. It doesn’t matter what your background is. I’ve got a number of people on certificate that have slightly off pieced degrees like environmental science where they haven’t got ecology section to it. And we have a course called Introduction to Ecology, which is an online course, which teaches you all the theory and principles of ecology. And that one’s something I make them do if they haven’t got a relevant degree. And I think, it’s important to understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing things as ecologists, advice and yeah.  

Nick   

So I guess, a course like yours could also just inform people, whether it’s right or not for them, and as a jumping off point, if they then wanted to go through formal education as well as something that they felt was going to benefit them. And they can do that after and then circle back as well later. Yeah. 

Sue Searle   

I don’t normally take people on certificate that haven’t either got a degree or a strong background in conservation. So, because I just think that if they want to get a job straight away, I want them to be in the best position possible. So sometimes I say to people, right, let’s you know if they’re doing an OU degree for example, let’s get you some experience while you’re studying your degree or while you’re still at university experience because when I was at uni, I was only there for about, I don’t know, six months of the year, I think something like that. The rest of the time I was on holiday, or, you know, I wasn’t there. And I think that if you waste that time, you’re missing an opportunity. If you expect to get skills and knowledge by, you know, going to the beach every day, it’s not going to happen. When my daughter went to university, she actually understood this because she’d seen me go through university and start my career and I encouraged her and she understood that if she spent all her holidays doing something ecology-ish then she would get on a lot better. And she got a job straight away degree because she had all this other stuff at the back. And I did as well. I mean, I’d worked, I’d run a children’s wildlife group for 10 years, I’d worked as an education ranger, I’d done all sorts of things as a volunteer. And so I had a raft of skills already when I started, so I was able to, like get going, but I did go for the Masters actually because I felt that the degree didn’t give me the ecological skill, like protected species surveys and writing reports and things like that. And my certificate students are now learning my masters basically, I just thought it was so useful to be taught how to do all the different surveys, how to do phase one habitat mapping, how to write reports about the legislation, and all of that, and I just thought, right one day I’m going to teach this to people because it’s so useful. 

Nick   

And now you have and now you are.  

Sue Searle   

It’s basically my masters. 

Nick   

Well look Sue it’s been a real pleasure talking to you nice to get to know you and to hear a bit more about where you’re going and what you’re doing with Ecology Training UK. If people want to find out a little bit more, where should we point them? 

Sue Searle   

Oh, ecologytraining.co.uk. Right at the moment, most of the courses are obviously on hold because of the COVID thing. But we have now 20 online courses, a lot of which are our normal field courses. So I’ve actually been out in the field as I would if I had the students with me and filmed myself looking at things and showing things and people found that really useful. And the other thing is that if it’s a video, you can go back over it whereas if you’re in a classroom, you just have one shot at listening to the information, but if you miss something, you can go back over the video and see it again. I’ve actually written a book called How to Become an Ecological Consultant, and it tells you exactly what you need to do to become an ecological consultant. Everything from how to get your skills, how to get jobs, how to approach an interview, what to write in your CV, all sorts of things like that. So it’s quite a popular book. And I get good feedback about it all the time about how helpful it’s been. Yeah, it’s available on ecology training.co.uk in the online section, and it’s available as a PDF, or you can get it on Amazon, as well. Okay.  

Nick   

All right  

Sue Searle   

Look out for this green one, because that’s the latest edition. We update every two or three years. It’s got lots of information about organisations to get experience from and the legislation and all that sort of thing in there as well. Yeah.  

Nick   

Sounds like another great starting point for those who are just interested in this and want to know a little bit more then the book could be a real entry way too. Yeah. Fantastic. Well, again, really nice to chat Sue. Thank you so much for your time. It’s been a real pleasure. We’ll put all the links and stuff in the show notes so that they can click off and find out more if they want to. But yeah, I hope you stay well. I hope things keep thriving for you and wish you all the best. 

Sue Searle   

Yeah, thank you much. Nice to meet you, Nick. Bye.  

Nick   

Likewise. 

Nick   

Okay, well I hope you enjoyed that everyone. If you did then please do hit that subscribe button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give the ratings it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews, we’ve collected the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free eBook, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConservCareers. We’d love to hear from you. Okay, till next time, guys, this is Nick signing out. 

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