Finding my feet (and bats) as an Assistant Ecologist

I’m Laura Hodgkinson and I joined JBA Consulting in September 2017 as an Assistant Ecologist on the graduate scheme. Having completed a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture, I thought that the emphasis on technical training within the graduate scheme would help me make the jump between agronomy and my dream career in ecology.

Since joining the graduate scheme, I have continued to develop my botanical knowledge. I spent a good chunk of my training budget on a Field Studies Council course which included trekking around a broad range of habitats in North Wales to see over 300 plant species growing in the field. I have also discovered that I enjoy bat surveys!

In the last year, JBA has undertaken bat surveys all over the country, in settings ranging from rural fields to grand Georgian mansions, and limestone quarries to dilapidated water treatment plants. I went on my first ever bat survey on just my third day with the company, and from the moment I heard the clicks of a Common Pipistrelle burst from a bat detector, I’ve been hooked.

JBA Bat sonogram - common Pipistrelle calls recorded during a dusk emergence survey
Bat sonogram – common Pipistrelle calls recorded during a dusk emergence survey

Since then, I’ve been busy working on bat-related projects and attended an introductory bat surveying course with a local Wildlife Trust. I’ve mapped potential roosts using GISmapp, JBA’s own location-aware data collection system, and learned how to use state-of-the-art bat surveying equipment such as infra-red cameras and Anabat Walkabout detectors, which display bat call sonograms in real-time. I’ve also enjoyed learning to use Analook software to analyse recorded calls for species identification.

The highlight of my bat surveying so far was witnessing a dawn swarm outside a manor house in Lincolnshire. By following the swarm, I identified a previously undiscovered roost of Brown Long-eared Bats!

I’m now on my second year of the JBA Graduate Scheme, and I’m looking forward to continuing training in bat survey techniques. I’m working towards obtaining a Class 1 Licence, which will allow me to use more intrusive techniques to find roosts and identify bats.

As part of obtaining this licence, I will need to start handling bats for species, age and sex identification. I will also be attending a CIEEM conference on habitat restoration later this year, and I hope to fit in a course or two on grasses, rushes, and sedges to keep improving my field botany skills.

Want to know more?

Email Laura Hodgkinson for more information on her experiences of the graduate scheme and her work with our ecology teams.

Why not apply for our 2019 graduate intake? Engineering applications open on 22 October and our water and environmental management opportunities open on 5 November.

Visit our graduate recruitment web pages to find out how to apply.

Leave a Reply