Bonus Becoming A Master – Things I wish I’d Known

Hindsight is always 20/20 so I wanted to share some of the things I wish I had known before I started my masters degree. If you’re new to my blog I have just completed my masters degree in Conservation from UCL and I recorded my journey with a series called becoming a master. Nevertheless here are five things I wish I had known before I started.

1 – Always start your assignments early. – You hear this piece of advice a lot at university, but when it comes to masters degree assignments they need more research than at undergraduate level which needs way more time. If you think you only need two weeks for an assignment double that for the amount of reading you need to do to go alongside!

2 – Go to careers events! – They might seem like a drag but your masters is normally only a year long and that year goes fast. Often these career events will allow you to see where you can go after your degree and what you need to do to get there.

3 – Talk to your lecturers – I was awful at doing this during my masters degree up until my dissertation, so learn from my mistakes! The best way to do well in assignments is to go and talk to the person whos marking it about what they’re really after. My masters assignments were often like the technical challenge in the great british bake off with very little information in the instructions. However, if you go and chat to your lecturers they will help! Also remember that your lecturers will often be your referees for job applications so it’s always good to make a great impression.

4 – Get Organised! – I spoke about organisation a lot during my weekly updates but honestly I think it’s the main thing that carried me through the masters process. Knowing exactly when you’re working, when deadlines are, and most importantly when you’re taking breaks is so important for keeping you as stress free as possible!

5 – Try and get some volunteer work in whilst not overloading yourself – I know it’s an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum to work out the right balance.  But! Volunteering and getting work experience is so important for after your degree and landing a great job. Volunteering will allow you to find out whether a certain type of work will be right for you and it looks great on your CV. However, it’s important to note that a masters degree has a full time job time commitment so try and get the balance right!

I hope these pieces of advice will help you on your masters degree journey. I might write another post soon about choosing the right masters degree to begin with soon so if you’d find that helpful let me know!

More Becoming A Master

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – The Hand In!

Week 36!

Hello! So here we are in the penultimate episode of this series! This week was all about finishing and handing in my dissertation! In the end I completely finished my piece of work on Tuesday, had it bound Wednesday and then I handed it over on Thursday!

In case you were wondering my final title of my dissertation was “Hedgerow management schemes and their effect on plant biodiversity, UK” but that’s all I can share with you until it’s marked! My final document was just over 15 thousand words but in terms of words that counted towards my word count it was 10,890 words and was 60 pages long. It is such an exciting yet daunting feeling handing over a solo piece of work that I have been working on for three months to be marked.

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In between all of the work, over the past few weeks I have also been going to interviews and applying for jobs so I can move on to another exciting chapter! Of which I will be able to speak more about very soon.

There’s just one more thing I have to do and then I will have finished all of my work for my master’s degree, but I will save telling you all about that for the finale!

See you then!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – The Last Working Week

Week 35!

Sorry, there wasn’t an update for you last week! Unfortunately it’s all been much of the same of writing, writing and writing my dissertation! I hand in my dissertation next week so I had to make sure my final piece was absolutely perfect this week.

I can’t really believe we’re already here. In one way it seems like it was last week that I was in Norfolk just starting this crazy ride and in another way that seems like a lifetime a go! But I will save all this sort of talk for next week when I will have given my precious document over to be torn apart by my tutors!

I have a feeling next week could get pretty emotional! See you then!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Back to GIS

Week 32

Hello and a very happy Sunday to you! So this week I have been using all my GIS skills once again but now I’m using them in my dissertation. If you didn’t know GIS stands for geographical information systems and is a really cool tool you can use to layer information that has a spatial element. Then you can build up the layers to see if there is a correlation between all of the information. I’ve talked about all the ins and outs with GIS before and you can read about it here if you’re interested.

In terms of GIS for my dissertation, I’ve been putting all my results from my field work onto a map to see if there is any connection between the biodiversity I’ve found and other spatial elements. Particularly when questioning whether the presence of trees in the hedgerows affect the general biodiversity. This is when I would show you my beautiful maps but I need to keep them to myself for a little while until my dissertation gets marked. However the basics behind it is I have mapped out the trees in my survey area as a layer and then I mapped over the biodiversity I found using the alpha biodiversity. This can then show me where the biodiversity is lower and if this happens to be where the hedgerows are dense with trees.

I’m using a similar technique to show the affect of badger damage on hedgerows. Badgers will often use the hedgerow to build part of their sets. This can often lead to lots of the plant life being destroyed. So I’m using GIS to see if that is an issue on my sample site too!

GIS is one of those tools that never fails to provide you with a fantastic figure and is a great skill for any budding biologist out there to learn!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – A Week In The Life

Week 31

Hello everyone, this week has been a busy one and instead of writing this on a Sunday and reflecting on the week just gone I’ve written a little each day. Hopefully this will show you that in my life currently there is no daily routine and every day is a little different.

Monday: Today I’ve been running a few errands, getting the shopping in and such as well as catching up on the emails I missed from being at home. I also spent a lot of today researching and writing for The Woodland Trust. I really love the volunteering I do for them as I just learn so much! If you’d like to see the work I do for them here are a few links:

Wild Orchids in the UK

Why Do Nettles Sting?

How to forage wild garlic!

Tuesday: Today I’ve been running through my statistics focusing on finding statistically significant results. These are important as when something is statistically significant you can say with more confidence that one thing is affecting another. This can be difficult to show in ecology as there are lots of variables out in the outside world!

Wednesday: Today I’ve been continuing with my work on Tuesday but also developing my reasons why I’m finding certain results. Stats can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers! I’ve been developing theories and working out what I want to say with my dissertation. This has somewhat left me with a few moments of yelling into a pillow when I don’t know which way is best! – All the fun of a masters I guess!

Thursday: The statistics continued today and I managed to answer some questions that I had from yesterday. I also collated all the work I’ve done so far for my meeting tomorrow.

Friday: Today I had a meeting with my supervisor for my dissertation. He gave me lots of ideas about how to use all the data analysis I’ve doing to create a succinct and convincing story. Which is great because I have a lot of editing to do!

After my meeting I went to go and give blood for the first time! I’ve always wanted to do this because I have no reason why I cant do it and every time someone gives blood they can save three different lives. It’s an incredible thing to do so go and do it if you can. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as how I’d built it up in my head and the nurses were totally lovely!

Saturday: So today I wrote up everything from my meeting and got to some planning. Although I did spend the afternoon on the sims… everyone needs a break!

Sunday:  I’m currently writing this just before I’m about to head out to spend some time with friends and my wonderful other half. We’re heading to the pottermore pop up shop in London and I am so excited! If you are also a potter fan let me know in the comments!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Alpha Diversity

Week 30

Hello friends! This week I have been all about the alpha diversity statistics so I thought I would tell you about how and why I’m doing it. Alpha biodiversity is effectively a way of working out the biodiversity in a local area. This can be done within a quadrat or within sections of a transect. For my dissertation I am looking at the alpha biodiversity of each of my hedgerows in my study.

To do this I’m using some software called EstimateS and I put in my results and then it uses different formula to find different alpha biodiversity scores. There can be different scores as lots of different studies have developed different mathematical formula to work out the biodiversity. Each formula is more effective for different types of study. For example a study looking at insect species richness may find a different formula gives a more accurate representation of alpha biodiversity than a study looking at salt marsh plants. I have four different formula to choose from and hopefully by next week I will have settled on one to use.

It’s been another heavy computer week but I did head home to Cornwall this weekend (why this blog is a little late) to run around the fields and check up on my hedgerows.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little update and a little lesson on statistics!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Procrastination Queen

Week 29

Hi friends, I’ve tried to start this blog in several different ways and none of them seem to be working. I think it’s mostly because I don’t have much to say as I haven’t done much on my masters this week. *Hangs head in shame*. This has happened for a couple reasons, firstly I’ve been doing plenty of writing for the Woodland Trust. Their blog is one of the most comprehensive for all things wildlife and its a total honor to be writing for them. I’ve also been pre-writing a lot of blogs for this internet space so I can try out some other creative projects.

It has also been beautifully sunny here in London and I have been staring out of the window like a puppy so I have been going on a few outdoor runs. I used to hate exercising but I found a new app called Zombie Run and I am now addicted to it!

Really all the spells out is….

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Hopefully next week I’ll have some tips on how to beat this and a complete list of things I’ve done to get this masters degree done! But for now shall we just sit, have a cup of tea, pop on the telly and forget we have stuff to do!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming a master: So many hedgerows

Week 27

Hello! So the past two weeks have been consumed by all things fieldwork (and a friends wedding). Doing fieldwork is one of my favourite things about being a scientist. It feels like real science even though all of the work that I do is real science. I love getting up close with nature and I learn a lot in a really short space of time. However as I’m writing this now I’ve completed all my fieldwork for this piece of work so I thought I’d tell you my top 5 things I’ve loved about the past 3 weeks of field work and 5 of my least favourite things!

Not So Great Things About Fieldwork

  1. The Elements – I’ve had all weathers whilst doing this work, I’ve been in torrential rain and bright (burning) sunshine. All weathers have there downsides and it can make things a bit tricky when trying to identify a plant you think you’ve never seen before.
  2. Working Alone – Some of my fieldwork I’ve had to do alone and this sucks because I have to carry all my equipment by myself and it takes a lot of self motivation to stay out in the rain when you’re by yourself!
  3. Stinging nettles – They were everywhere and I had so many stings on my hand at one point that it didnt stop tingling for a good day and a half.
  4. Rabbit Holes – Now I’ll never win a competition at being the most graceful but over the past 3 weeks I’ve fallen into more rabbit holes than I can count. Sometimes falling into stinging nettles!
  5. Long days – When I’ve been out and about I tend to stay out! Then when I came home I made a point of putting all my data into my computer  there and then so it couldnt get lost. All this made for a very sleepy laura!

Things that make fieldwork the best thing ever!

  1. The Views!!! – I’ve been working in Cornwall, which just so happens to be one of the most stunning places in the UK (although I am ever so slightly biased). Even in the pouring rain I could look up from my work and see the most stunning views of cornish countryside. I’ve been posting lots of pictures on my instagram if you want to take a look!
  2. Learning – The best way to learn how to identify plants is to get out in nature. I’ve learnt so much over the past three weeks about the names of different plants and their characteristics and it is so rewarding!
  3. Having my field assistants! – Luckily my sister and both of my dogs were able to come out with me on some of my days out and about. My sister is a fabulous assistant and I cannot thank her enough or I would have probably been out in the field for another three weeks getting it done. And my dogs are the cutest things you’ve ever seen and never fail to make me laugh.
  4. Its so much fun! – I love being out and about in nature whether its work or just walking around so I loved these past few weeks!
  5. My glorious data set – I now have the most stunning and massive dataset that I think I’ve ever created by myself and I love it!

Anyway I am now back in London for stage 2 of the project which is statistics. I can’t say I’m all that excited as stats has never been my forte but I’m excited to see what my data really says!

See you all soon and thanks for reading!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Start of Something New – Becoming A Master

Week 24!

Hello, so this week I’ve actually had some time to rest up after the assignment but on Friday I started my final stage of the degree. This is the term I will complete my dissertation, so I had my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor who agreed on my project. I’m completing my research on the biodiversity in hedgerows and so on Saturday I went and did a preliminary check on the hedgerows I want to analyse.

It’s the start of the next big project for me and I’m really excited to get going with it!

Unfortunately once again its a short blog post but there will be more next week when the prep work begins!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Deadlines, Deadlines Everywhere!

Hello!

So it has not been a great week for BEDA. Mainly because my deadlines came and tapped me on the shoulder and then I went into a little bit of hibernation. I am nearing the end and next week I’m free. But for now I better get back to it because I’ll be honest I’m at the green stage of this beautiful diagram.

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I’ll be back next week!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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