Reflection on my summer research project experience

In the summer of 2021, I collaborated with a professor and fellow scholar on a six-week research project titled 'Quantifying and Understanding the Killing of Reintroduced Beavers in Scotland'. Three years later, I believe I can attribute many of my recent accomplishments, in part, to this project.

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In the summer of 2021, soon after being accepted into the Laidlaw Leadership and Research Programme, I spent six weeks collaborating with Professor George Holmes and a fellow scholar, Katie Fox, on a research project that set out to understand the perceptions of landowners and managers towards the reintroduction of beavers in Scotland, but also towards species reintroductions more generally.

On this project, I had the opportunity to spend three of the six weeks completing fieldwork in Scotland, which was a memorable and really enjoyable experience. I developed and gained a range of skills and knowledge that has been instrumental in my university degree. More specifically, the research experience equipped me with skills that I could talk about in job applications and interviews. Additionally, it helped me realise that my passion lies in conservation, which is the field I want to work in in the future. 

Subsequently, this summer research project inspired my dissertation, where I looked at the threats facing a reintroduced population of pine martens (Martes martes) in the New Forest National Park, UK. The Laidlaw research project gave me insights into how to complete high-quality research, from the planning stage to the fieldwork, and then the write-up. This enabled me to excel in my dissertation and undoubtedly improved the quality and results of this important piece of work.

Following this, I decided to apply for an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Leeds, which I have recently been accepted onto, and I partly attribute this accomplishment to my research experience in the field of biodiversity conservation, gained through the Laidlaw Leadership and Research Programme.

Finally, I wanted to gain further insights into ecological restoration projects and earn money over the summer to help fund my master's degree next year. So I put together an application for a competitive summer internship called the Future Leader's Programme. Specifically within this, I applied for the role of Landscape Scenario Modelling Project Assistant, which works with the University of Cambridge's Centre for Landscape Regeneration and the RSPB to assist the Cairngorms Connect ecological restoration project in Scotland. I based a large part of my application and interview answers directly on the research experience I gained through the Laidlaw summer research experience, and was delighted when I was told I had been successful in my application.

In summary, I feel that this is a great example of the snowball effect. Completing the Laidlaw Leadership and Research Programme summer research project has led to so many new opportunities and even moulded the direction of my career. Each of these subsequent opportunities has opened new doors, helped me make new connections, and pushed me towards the career I seek, and for this I am grateful.

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