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International work experience bursary winner, working as a research assistant with Operation Wallacea, Mexico

Madeleine spent a month in Mexico, working at the Calakmul (jungle) and Akumal (marine) sites. She undertook a wide range of activities dedicated to the study of flora and fauna in both environments – including birds, bats, monkeys and mammals. For example, bird surveying involved recording and identifying different bird calls along a 2km transect every 200m, setting up mist nets to physically catch the birds and checking them every 20 minutes. Once caught the species of the birds were identified and several characteristics were measured including tail length and gender and the birds’ claws were also marked for future identification.

As with many students, being able to apply techniques in a real world environment has started Madeleine thinking about possible career roles. "Both in the jungle and marine sites I met people who were site managers with roles which appealed to me for the potential future because of the variety and tasks the job involved; this appeals to me because I think a job with variety will be more enjoyable. The topics covered on the marine site also appealed to a potential future career I am considering in sustainable management of beaches and coral reefs. Therefore I think project management, team management and leadership skills are necessary to develop further so that in the future I will be able to organise/supervise a group myself. I also think that I need to develop more of an appreciation of the social, political and funding issues surrounding environmental conservation and protection as well as increasing my knowledge of marine ecology, beach and coral sustainability in order to be more prepared and understand what a career in environmental conservation and sustainability would involve and focus upon… I have also realised that learning a foreign language would be beneficial for any career which requires travelling abroad.

The entire process, not only of undertaking the placement, but also of applying for and securing her work experience bursary, helped provide Madeleine with invaluable experience. "The application process for the bursaries in itself including the presentation, budget preparation, developing clear aims and identifying skills will definitely benefit me for applying for any future work experience or graduate positions as it allows me to critically assess a placement and what is required for it."

"This experience has helped me focus my career interests and aspirations further on beach conservation and sustainability especially for coral reefs and it has helped me realise that I don’t want a career which just involves research.

"It has also motivated me to consider further work experience placements as I have realised how helpful they are for identifying career interests whilst at the same time widening future opportunities.

"This experience shows any employer initiative, independence, planning, and that I can adapt easily to different environments, culture and people which I think are all important to any career.

"This experience has also provided me with more specialist knowledge in certain topics which will be valued for any future work experience or graduate positions associated."

Overall, Madeleine encapsulates her feelings about the opportunity by saying, “this experience not only gave me insight into potential future career opportunities, but it also helped me identify and develop personal skills which I believe will assist me in all aspects of my future life. This placement has enhanced my academic studies by allowing me to apply my theoretical knowledge to real life situations.”