Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Matthew Begins Year Two of His Ecology Masters

After completing the first year of his Masters in the summer, the last few months have been filled with survey and desk work for our Ecology Apprentice, Matthew Keough. Upon starting the second year of his MSc, Matthew headed down to The Eden Project for a residential trip with his classmates.

This month has been very busy, and included lots of bats! I have also been on a couple of water vole surveys with my colleague at Baker Consultants, Ian Stephens, where we waded through ditches in search of holes, as well as searching for their signature green tic-tac latrines and nibbled vegetation with a 45-degree angle. Unfortunately, I still haven’t managed to find any.

On Sunday 17th September, I packed my bags and headed down to The Eden Project in Cornwall once again. The seven-hour train journey always seems to go so fast, but it’s probably because I’m always excited to see my fellow classmates. The week was orientated around the two new modules we are starting: post graduate research methods and wetland ecosystems and riparian zone restoration. The other main objective of the week was to also teach us all the basics of the data analysis software R.

The week was packed with classroom teaching, field trips for data gathering and lab time to analyse said data. We spent hours in the world-famous Eden Biomes, digging to gather soil samples so we could measure soil organic carbon (SOC) content from different plots around the biomes. This was to help the Eden team with their own interests in the biomes but, to also provide us with data to practice with. On the Thursday, we had an excursion to the Gannel estuary; a beautiful saltmarsh, and the first I’d ever been to. We carried out transects at different distances along the estuary and, using quadrats, we worked out the flora distributions before digging up some of the soil for putting into a bag for working out the SOC content later on. I learnt many new plant species, including: Sea Purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), Sea Aster (Tripolium pannonicum) and Samphire (Salicornia europaea).

Throughout the week we had presentation sessions, where we each presented the ideas we have for our dissertation projects. All of my classmates had great ideas and there was a great range of topics that reflected everyone’s unique interests and what they do in their day-to-day when they’re at work. My presentation was on the last day. I spoke about soil bioacoustics and how it’s an innovative biological monitoring technique, and how I want to use it to compare regenerative farming practices from intensive practices.

The final week of September was spent travelling around the country conducting bat surveys, reptile surveys and collecting static detectors as the survey season came to a close. Now I have my first survey season under my belt, looking back I realise just how much I’ve learnt over the last six months. I know so much more about the flora and fauna of England and I hope to continue building on this knowledge over future survey seasons to come. Now this year’s season is over, there’ll be a lot more desk time for me, where I’ll return to mapping and analysing data, and hopefully start to work on my report writing skills as well.


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


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