Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Surveys, Surveys and Surveys!

April was a month filled with survey work for Baker Consultants’ Ecology Apprentice, Matthew Keough. After heading to sites up and down the country over the course of the month, Matthew discovered a new hobby in his downtime – gardening. Read Matthew’s latest diary entry to find out how his apprenticeship at Baker Consultants is going:

When your week is full of surveys time flies, and April went by in the blink of an eye. I’ve been up and down the country and surveying sites near Southampton, London and Leeds. In Southampton, I did my first bat transect of the year (now called a night-time bat walkover (NBW) survey, BCT – Bat Survey Guidelines 23) which was fun. The new guidelines outline that we are to stand at a feature which we believe would have the most bat activity for 30 minutes before starting to walk around the site, and surveys are to last 2-3 hours. It’s interesting walking around fields, hedges and woodlands at night; it is not something that most people do, but I found it to be quite meditative and relaxing.

On the other sites, I am primarily there to do reptile surveys, although I am yet to find one. I have, however, found frogs, toads, shrews and mice (even a mother mouse with four babies). When going to site to do a reptile survey, I also sometimes deploy and collect static detectors. Static detectors are nifty bits of kit that have acoustic and ultrasonic microphones, allowing us to get an insight into the bats and birds that use an area without having to be there. We can give the detectors schedules of when to come on and off, which helps to save SD card space and battery life. They are set to turn on at the points where you are most likely to hear birds (dawn and dusk), and when bats are most active (after dusk). We deploy them tactically and with multiple deployments over the survey season to get full coverage of a site and record how the bird/bat assemblages change over time (I love a bit of analysis).

My MSc dissertation is also coming along, and soon I’ll beginning my statistical analyses of the data we collected in September to March. I have also taken up gardening in my spare time and have cleaned out the greenhouse at home so I could get started with planting tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and aubergines. I even pulled up a strip of turf to create a meadow and built trellises to grow sweet peas up, so I am very excited to see the results! I have already noticed a lot more birds coming to the garden.

I have also started brewing again and made dandelion beer from scratch using the Brew In a Bag (BIAB) method. It took four hours, but the hard work will pay off soon when I get to sip on a cold beer in the sun (fingers crossed!) in a few weeks when it’s finally done fermenting and being bottle conditioned.


The Baker Consultants team is highly experienced and we are passionate about what we do. If you need advice related to ecology, surveys or conservation, then please get in touch with us via our contact form on the website, or you can call us on +44 (0)1629 593958 or email us on