BSc in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Rosemary- a third year BSc in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments student at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences - talks about her time on the course, her experiences of field work and life at the University of Birmingham.

Title: BSc in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Duration: 5.45 mins

Speaker Names (if given): S1 Rosemary Jenkins, BSc in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments student

S1  My name is Rosemary Jenkins and I’m studying a BSc in Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments.

I came to Birmingham to study Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments because I’ve always had an interest in geology. I studied geology at GCSE and at A level in high school and I also studied Biology at A level and I knew I wanted to do something that would incorporate both of those subjects into a degree. So when I was looking for what subject I wanted to study I decided I wanted to study Palaeontology or something similar to that. There aren’t that many universities that actually offer courses like that and I found that Birmingham offered Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments, which seemed like a very broad-range subject which seemed to like tick all the boxes for me.

So I came to look around the campus and as soon as I came here I knew that this was the place for me. The buildings are absolutely amazing, the campus is really nice and green and there’s trees and grass everywhere.

When you walk into the department you come into the Lapworth Museum and they have a wide range of fossils and rocks and minerals and things on display. And it’s a really interesting way to look at all the things that you could possibly be studying in the future.

The course at Birmingham really stood out for me because it has such a wide range of subjects that you can study. So, in the first year you get a basic training, the same as the people on the Geology course; earth systems, structural geology, sedimentology and things like that. But then as you progress through the course you get to choose things that are more related to what you are interested in. So you can either choose an ecological pathway or an evolutionary pathway. I chose to do the ecology stream and that’s allowed me to choose modules such as, ecological systems in which you can look at organisms living in their natural environment in modern systems. You can link that back to palaeoenvironments. You can also choose, when you go into third year, even more specific modules that relate to palaeontology as opposed to generally geology. So I’ve chosen to study evolution of vertebrates and also micropalaeontology, which is also really cool.

I’d say my personal highlight was working on my independent project. You get offered field projects in things like looking at river hydrology or glacial landscapes, but the palaeo- students were also offered lab projects. So we were really lucky we got to work with the Sea-Life centres at both Birmingham and Blackpool. So my project was centred around fish otiliths and I got to do an isotope study, which was really interesting because I got to work with different people in different labs and got to have my own specimens analysed with the specialised equipment at the University of Birmingham. And then you have to write up a scientific document, where you get all your thoughts onto paper.

You get to do one module of fieldwork in each year. So in first year you go on a fieldtrip to the south coast of Wales, in Pembrokeshire, and there you develop your basic skills in fieldwork. So you learn things about field mapping and sediment logging. But it’s a really interesting way that they do it because they assume that you don’t have any prior knowledge in geology. So even if you haven’t studied geology before you get to know the same techniques as everyone else. And then in the third year we were able to go on a trip to the south coast of Spain which was really nice because the weather was absolutely amazing and we got to do a bit more independent study. So we were looking at sedimentary basins and how that formed in terms of structural geology, and then looking at the infill of basins. Looking at how the environment’s changed and how that changed the sediments and the fossils that were deposited at the time.

Living in Birmingham you’d expect that it would be like a really busy and hectic place. But because you’re on the university campus you’re in kind of like your own little bubble away from all the hustle and bustle of the city centre. So you have shops and University Centre, you’ve got your own hairdressers even. And so everything you could need is on campus but everything else, like the clubs, shops and supermarkets and things, you can go into town for that.

In my first year I stayed in one of the sections of halls of residence called The Vale, which is lots of different types of halls of residence all centred around a really nice lake and it has grass and trees, which is really nice.

The University of Birmingham has its own student run geology society called the Lapworth Society, or LapSoc, and they do a lot of activities such as nights out. Which is really cool, so you can meet other people in the department, not only from other courses but from different years.

I also play clarinet in the University Wind Band. So we rehearse in the Bramall Music Building which is a new music building. Everything has been refurbished and it’s all really nice and new. We have two concerts a year. You can invite your friends and your family, coursemates, just to show them what you’ve been doing through the year. It’s really nice to have just something else to do in the evenings so you’re not always focussed on your studies all the time.

Once I finish my degree I’m hoping to continue my studies in palaeontology, looking at micropalaeontology hopefully. That will be really interesting because it can go into lots of different aspects. You can go into the oil and gas industry or biostratigraphy and things like that.

My advice to anyone who would like to study geology or a geology-based subject is that you don’t just have to study straight geology if your interests don’t lie there. There are so many different aspects of geology that you could just decide to do in further study. So, if you’re interested in physical geography you could take that up or if you’re interested in biology there’s always palaeontology which is always a really good round subject that you could choose to study instead.

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