The First Week

First full week of level two university is complete! One down, *something, something, many, lots* to go, heh. By which you may safely assume that it has not been without stressors. Firstly, I was told many, many times by many people that level two is quite the step up from level one. They were not kidding! There was no ‘easing in gently’. It has, all in all, reminded me of sky diving.

When you go tandem sky diving you are strapped to the chest of someone qualified and experienced. You sit in front of them in the plane as it climbs to several thousand feet in ten minutes while the instructor runs through what you are going to do and tries to calm your nerves – perhaps getting you excited for the jump itself! Suddenly you find yourself shuffling toward the door on your knees and being dangled over the edge of the plane, held only by the straps and the instructor’s hands gripping the bar above. You know there is a green bulb above your head that will light up when it is time to jump, but you cannot see it. You do not know when you will jump, nor control any aspect of that fall, all you can do is cross your arms over your chest and breathe. Suddenly, there’s a forward lurch that flips your stomach as well as the rest of you and there you are! Free fall! Terrifying, exhilarating, beautiful; falling two miles at approximately 120 mph in one minute before the parachute opens, following which you will have five minutes to take in what may actually be the most beautiful scenery you have ever witnessed while you remember how to breathe again.

How does this remind me of university? Okay, hear me out.
Year 1: I was in the plane (and in my case I’d never been in a plane before), I was terrified of the impending jump yet being tutored, calmed and worked up for the excitement of what was to come.
Summer holiday: I’m shuffling toward the plane door, I’d been in a plane for the first time and it was wonderful! But the next part is scary!
First week of year 2: I’m dangling out of the door and have NO idea when I will fall or what to expect but it’s definitely going to be scarier than the ride in an aeroplane. I might be sick… LURCH!

I am imagining at this point that the rest of year two and then three will be much like that one-minute free-fall: struggling to catch my breath, trying to smile for the camera, being surrounded by beautiful scenery and trying to take it all in, not knowing how long I’ve been falling or how much longer I have til the ‘chute is set free. I imagine that the parachute popping out and dragging me back up sharply with a snap will be my dissertation and that everything after that point will be floating serenely back to land, drinking in the entire Jurassic Coast with adrenaline coursing through my veins. All very dramatic, I know, but university is definitely producing the same emotion in me. Incidentally, if you haven’t watched my sky dive video yet – my first of two – you can see it here, it’s worth it for a giggle at my expense but also illustrates my point! And yes, I am one of those people who will always bring up “that time I did a sky dive” but only because, as cliched as it sounds, it genuinely was a life changing moment for me, and I relate most scary things in my life from that point on to the sky dive… because if I can jump out of a plane at 15,000 feet (twice!) there’s nothing I can’t do really!

So, yes, back to university has been a minor system shock because it’s definitely going to be far more ‘full on’ than last year. As long as I can keep to the many lists and timetables I have printed off and stuck to the wall around my desk, I should be able to manage juggling everything I have to do… well, I hope I can, but I am already having to start prioritising things and letting go of things I love. I’m kicking my heels a little on that, but I suspect I might have to give up my allotment this year as I struggled to keep up with it last year and this year will certainly be no better! There are other things I might have to let fall back to the wayside as well, but we will see.

Sketch Notes/Visual Note Taking

If you’ve read previous posts on here you may have encountered me talking about sketch notes. I was introduced to this concept while at the BES Undergraduate Summer School in July and decided to give it a go this year. So far, I am really enjoying it and I am reasonably confident that it will be really effective for me. It took a little while to get over the fear of using a pen (not a pencil) and that I might miss something important, but so far so good! Some examples of my notes are below – I am quite critical of my own work, thay are not a work of art and they may make no sense to you, but their intent is to help me remember and learn things from lectures and not replace a lecture for someone who didn’t see it. Feedback from other people who have seen my notes has been really positive so far, and it’s been practice in accepting compliments! I’ve been asked if I have any experience in graphic design… I’m not sure if they were being serious when they asked, but no, I don’t!

Speaking of the BES Undergraduate Summer School… look what arrived! My bat detector prize! It doesn’t work with my phone (Huawei) or my Kindle, but I have an old smartphone which just needs a new battery that it allegedly will work with, so my fingers are crossed because I cannot wait to play with it!


My last post detailed my other new blog, Bristol Invertebrates, which I hope is going to go well, but my involvement with other societies and groups is making me re-evaluate my plans for UWE EntSoc. As much as I dearly love the idea of setting it up (and am ridiculously jealous of University of Bristol who have achieved it), it’s not really going anywhere. I’m finding that I can achieve what I wanted to achieve with a UWE EntSoc through the other groups and societies and the above blog, so maybe it’s just not the right time now and that is something else that might fall along the way.

More positively, UWE Wildlife and Environment Society had their first social gathering last Thursday at the Volunteer Tavern, organised by yours truly, and it went really well! It was a ‘taster’ session, for us to get to know each other, chat about events we have planned and get a feel for events members would like us to put on, all over a drink and some food in a lovely environmentally conscious pub in Bristol that wasn’t UWEs SU bar. In the minutes before people arrived I panicked because I didn’t know if 5 or 50 people would come; as it was, it wasn’t far off 50! A fantastic turn out, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. We (the commitee) certainly had some great feedback and some fantastic ideas for future events, many of which we have set the ball rolling for now, so hopefully most if not all of the people who came to the social gathering will sign up to the society so they can take advantage of those events! *nudge nudge*.

I’ve also re-joined UWE Rock and Metal Society this year, I like it because obviously I like rock and metal (music), but also the people are lovely and good fun and, crucially, it is something not even remotely related to my degree or other interests (all of which are related to my degree), and I am keen not to have my entire life be all about university. They’ve had two events so far, neither of which I have been able to attend as yet, but at least the option is there. I have not joined any new societies, or rejoined any others (i.e. the Art Society or Archery) because, once again, I have to prioritise heavily this year.

I helped get together some bits for UWE Wildlife and Society’s table at Green Fest, some from my own collection and other bits from Rhiannon in 0J17, which I enjoyed doing even if I am worried about my specimens making it home in one piece on the bus! I didn’t, however, make it to Green Fest myself to help out but it went well apparently.

I attended a webinar through CIEEM called District Level Licencing for Great Crested Newts (this was my first Sketch Notes test as well)… it was probably a little too advanced for me and where I am in my education, though introduced me to terminology and methodology that will become more useful as my career advances.


The first of the assignments was set, this one doesn’t have to be in until April but it is probably the one I am most excited for: Taxonomic Collections. I’ve chosen to do Coleoptera, which part of me feels is a bit of a cop out as it is where my interest lies, so isn’t exploring anything new, per se. With that said, I’m not exactly an expert in using dichotomous keys nor in identifying half the beetles I find – though I am reasonably good at getting to family on my own – so it will still be a good deal of work! We have to find a minimum of 6 insect specimens (double that if you want to get a 1st) and while I already have that amount of specimens collected over the summer (knowing full well this assignment would be set this year) along with the field notes, I still have to properly identify a couple of them. I would also like to try a few baited pitfall traps and other things to see if I can find anything exciting, I’m especially interested in finding some more Silphidae. I will also probably have to re-set some of the specimens I have, and that could go horribly wrong so I could do with having some back ups!

This leads me smoothly here… to my Coleoptera display at the BRLSI for their “Chosen” Exhibit which ended today. I hope someone I know went to see it!


I’ve been invited to participate in a really exciting science communication project called Rethinkerspace, which involves several workshops spaced over three years. This is quite a big thing for me and as the first workshop is coming up in November I will wait until then and do a proper post about it!

I’m also attending a conference held at UWE on Tuesday called “Race Equality in Nature: The Next Generation 13-30”, I am not entirely sure how much of this will be relevant to me, but because of my new interest in science communication and the fact that I haven’t yet ruled out education as a career choice for the future, I have chosen to attend it (as opposed to one of my lectures, hoping I can catch up with that via blackboard afterwards) because I have a feeling it might be useful and interesting; speakers include Chris Packham and Rebecca Speight, the CEO of the RSPB.

I will end this post with a few pictures I have taken (just rubbish phone photos, again!) that haven’t fit anywhere above. Until the next time!

Published by StudentEcologistBristol

I'm a mature student studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science BSc (Hons) at the University of the West of England.

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