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2023 – A year in the life of a Junior Ecologist

As I come towards the end of my first full calendar year as an Ecologist at Tyrer, I am reflecting on the journey I have been on.

Having joined the company on a part-time basis in June of 2022, I had already missed the natterjack toad and great crested newt survey season – however I still managed to squeeze in most of the busy bat season. As last year I was completely new to the industry, I spent most of my time shadowing our Ecologists, soaking in as much knowledge as I could and perhaps not taking on anything too complex or challenging.


2023 has been a different story!


In January, I undertook my first bat hibernation survey – crawling through the very confined tunnels of Crank Caverns in sub-zero temperatures searching for bats in the various small cracks and crevices in the walls was definitely a new experience, and not for the faint-hearted…

March saw the beginning of my first great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) (or GCN) season – queue a number of back-to-back late nights and early mornings full of bottle trapping, egg searching, torching, netting and terrestrial searches! It took a while, with a number of unsuccessful searches, but finally in a small pond in rural Cheshire, I located my first GCN – that feeling definitely made the early rise worthwhile.

In April, I undertook my first natterjack toad (Epidalea calamita) survey in the Lake District – despite the scenery, our efforts to find toads were unfortunately (or fortunately, for the client!) unsuccessful. I was beginning to give up hope after a few more surveys of absence. It was not until my final survey of the season in September when I finally saw my first natterjack, on the Wirral peninsula near Red Rocks Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Next came the bat season in May; as this was my second bat season, I was prepared for the whirlwind of a few months to come. Workload seemingly increased 10-fold, as we tried to squeeze in hundreds of daytime Preliminary Roost Assessments (PRA), dusk emergence and dawn re-entry bat surveys before the season ended in September. My highlight of the bat season was definitely discovering thousands of bat droppings in a loft space in Lancashire during a PRA, before almost 200 common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) bats emerged from the building during the subsequent dusk surveys – a maternity roost!


Following the bat season, I then applied for a European Protected Species License on behalf of the homeowner, managing to amend the proposed works to conserve the entire roost in situ. To see this site through from start to finish, ensuring no harm was done to the maternity roost, was very rewarding.

The whole team also attended a bat handling and identification course this year, where we learnt how to distinguish between the 18 UK native bat species and safely handle various live species of bat – this was another personal highlight.

Prior to entering the industry, I was probably naïve to the botanical knowledge required for the role. Having next to no experience with this, I felt very out of my depth at first, and could barely name even common plants! However, with the help of my very talented botanical colleagues, a few training courses, and an awful lot of practice, I now feel like I have progressed massively in my botanical identification. In July I undertook the Field Identification Skills Certificate (FISC), a field and lab-based test of botanical proficiency, and managed to achieve a FISC level 3. This is a level I am really happy with at this stage of my career, and something I definitely didn’t think I could achieve when I started my role.

2023 was also definitely the year of Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – the process of BNG, whereby a new development must ensure that it achieves a measurably positive impact (‘net gain’) in biodiversity, compared to what was there before development, was due to come into law in late 2023 (although now has been delayed until 2024). As such, increasingly more of our clients have been asked to provide a BNG assessment as part of their planning application. After 20+ assessments and reports in 2023 alongside a formal training course, I am definitely feeling like a bit of a BNG specialist in advance of this coming into law!


This is just a whistle-stop tour of some of the big things that 2023 has included in my Junior Ecologist role, with far too many things to name, like countless Preliminary Ecological Appraisals, Ecological Clerk of Works supervisions, and many protected species surveys. All in all, 2023 has been a year of huge learning for me – I have grown from being a relative novice in most areas, to now feeling confident in almost all areas of our field. I still have a lot of learning to do, but I am really happy to be a part of such a great team, full of cross-discipline expert Ecologists, who help me every day to grow in my expertise.


Here is to 2024, and much more learning!

- Harry

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