Well, that’s that then. Today, after four months of fieldwork, data analysis, frustration, sublime locations and sensational wildlife, I submitted my MSc thesis. The title: a comparison of monitoring techniques used to assess Atlantic Puffin breeding density.
Truth be told, I am rather glad to see the back of the lengthy document. Not because I disliked writing it, but because its submission means I am now free to pursue jobs absent educational commitments and, hopefully, with a few extra letters in front of my name. Though only time will tell which grade I eventually depart with (it is looking good at present but alas, things can change).
Starting my MSc Wildlife Management course at Newcastle last September, it is safe to say I was a little nervous. Apprehension born in equal parts of the four-year gap between my degrees – back then it felt a little like I had forgotten everything I learnt at Bachelors – and the increased technicality of this particular course. Indeed, over the past twelve months, I have undertaken work that, only a few years past, would have terrified me, and surprisingly, have had a blast while doing it. The course jam-packed with intriguing but complex modules centred on everything from policy and legislation to geographical information systems (GIS) and population modelling. It has been testing, at times, and damn right hard at others; though looking back now, I can say without a doubt that I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Above all else, the highlight of my year as a postgraduate was the chance to conduct my dissertation fieldwork on the Farne Islands. My choice of topic resulting in a lengthy spell living and working alongside shags, kittiwakes, razorbills, arctic terns and, of course, puffins: all in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the UK. For that, I am very greatly to both the National Trust rangers, for putting up with me on the islands, and to my supervisors for facilitating my stay. Whatever the outcome of my final project, this is not an experience I will forget in a hurry and, regardless of grade, one which will stick with me for a very long time. I will even miss the injuries, ticks and lack of WiFi.
For now, and in celebration of my liberation from education, here are a few photos from my stay on the islands…