Baker Consultants

The Diary of an Ecology Apprentice: Year One of Matthew’s Masters is Complete

This month, our Ecology Apprentice, Matthew Keough, hit the significant milestone of finishing the first year of his Masters degree. On top of that, he also observed some strange bat activity went out on-site and is putting his running shoes on as he gears up to run 60 miles in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease association. Read below to find out more about Matthew’s ninth month as an Ecology Apprentice at Baker Consultants:

Every week in June I did at least one bat survey that required an overnight stay, the surveys can be emergences or transects. Emergence surveys are carried out when a potential roost feature has been identified in previous surveys. The surveyor sits and watches the feature thirty minutes prior to sundown and then for a further one and a half to two hours after sundown to see if any bats emerge from the feature. A transect (otherwise known as an activity transect) is when a surveyor creates a route following buildings, hedgerows or tree lines and walks along it to see where most bat activity is happening on site. I much prefer activity transects as you usually see more bats, and you also get your steps in!

One of the highlights this month was another bat surveying trip with my colleagues, Courtenay Holden and Rae Smith, to Elvaston Castle, where Baker Consultants has been working for many years on different parts of the site. A couple of weeks earlier, whilst carrying out an emergence survey on the old building, Courtenay and Rae had discovered 27 bats had left a gap above a window. So, we traversed the old building’s interior; it was like a maze with lots of hidden doors and was closed to the public for renovations, so it felt very exclusive, which added to the excitement. We found lots of droppings but, no bats.

This month I have been out on-site a lot with my colleague, Ian Stephens, mainly looking for bats. We have travelled a few times to a site on the east coast to survey some trees previously identified to be bat roosts. The first survey was almost written off by a flash flood that had not been forecasted, but luckily it only lasted twenty minutes or so. After it passed, we set up our gear again. The air was a lot cooler than twenty minutes earlier so we did not get much bat activity at all. We returned to the site two weeks later, not sure what to expect. The tree I was watching had almost no activity at all, so I presumed the site was of no interest to bats, however, Ian and one of our seasonal surveyors, Ellis, recorded lots of bat activity. Ellis’ tree had a particularly large amount of activity and on reviewing the video footage, we noticed a rather peculiar event occur. While no bats emerged from the dead standing tree itself, several congregated around it later in the evening. Some even landed on it, crawled around for a bit and then flew back into the mini swarm. We are not sure what to call it, so we must investigate it further. We are returning in late August.

I recently took part in the Midlands Tough Mudder event for the charity Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA). It was a long 15km run split up by 30 obstacles; a real mental and physical test. We had some great fun, and I would really recommend it to anyone wanting to do something challenging for charity. Next month my friend and I are running 60 miles (96km). This will be split up across the month, not all at once. We’re also doing this to help raise funds for the MNDA. Luckily my MSc course has broken up for summer so I can solely focus on work and physical activity.

I have now completed my first year of my MSc and achieved a Merit, so it’s safe to say I’m pretty pleased with that! It’s been a fun year; the course has been very engaging, and I have learnt and done loads of new things. Having also worked full-time as part of my training, I have learnt so much from my colleagues, as well as on the course. Apprenticeships are fantastic schemes as you truly get to learn in a way that works, where classroom teachings are reinforced in what you do day by day. I look forward to the start of the next academic year in September, which will be kicked off with another residential at the Eden Project. Until then, I will enjoy spending my time focussed on work at Baker Consultants, gaining valuable experience and doing my part to help the business with lots of soil acoustic monitoring, and probably more bat surveys.

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