“RSK and environmental consultancy is very much a new venture for me, having come from a background in local government as a planning ecologist,” says Richard. “How the tables have turned from reading ecology reports to actually writing them!
“My first few weeks as an ecology consultant specialising in botany has certainly been very different to my old role, but not at all in a bad way. When I first told my friends and former colleagues that I was leaving local government for a consultancy role, they said things such as ‘Oh, leaving to go to the dark side,’ and ‘It doesn’t matter what you find, it will be destroyed; private practice is a very different world.’
“It is indeed a very different world, but also remarkably unlike how they perceived it. What I have experienced so far is a team of passionate and dedicated ecologists striving to do what’s best for the species and habitats they are surveying, and advising clients on the best ways forward to protect nature and biodiversity.
“My first few weeks at RSK have been challenging in many respects,” continues Richard. “Private practice is a different way of working, but it is also welcoming and supportive. Within my first few hours at the company, I was advised on inductions and courses I need to go on to allow me on-site and to do my job more effectively, as well on the various RSK systems and methods of working. Thanks to this early advice and support, I now have everything I need to fully participate in my new role.
“My primary passion is plants. It started when I was about four years old, taking shrubs out of my Grandma’s garden and growing an Aesculus hippocastanum (a horse-chestnut tree, which I still have). I do have other interests, such as peregrine falcons and butterflies, so there is more to me than the life of plants, but plants remain my primary interest.
“While I have been employed primarily for my botany skills and knowledge, I’ve quickly learned that as an ecological consultant you also need to be able to adapt and learn about new species and their habitats. Since joining RSK, I’ve already assisted on badger and great crested newt surveys, nesting bird checks and Phase 1 habitat surveys. I’ve also provided advice on remediation strategies to remove drill material from ditches and encourage the spread of Cardamine pratensis (cuckooflower) by sensitive seeding.
“Most recently, I assisted on my first ever bat emergence survey, which was a nice introduction to the world of bats and ways of recording them. However, I never pass up the opportunity to do some botanising, especially when the RSK van parked alongside some Echium vulgare (viper's bugloss) – not rare, but a nice find. I’ve also conducted hedgerow assessments for pipeline diversions and recommended replacement planting.
Parking next to some Echium vulgare (viper's bugloss)
“I find my thirst for knowledge regarding other species growing and believe that RSK will nurture this and enable me to become a better all-round ecologist in due course,” concludes Richard. “So far, it’s been something of a whirlwind introduction, but one that has been fascinating and stimulating. I’m eagerly anticipating future projects and adding further diversity to my role – perhaps even some electrofishing surveys or freshwater macroinvertebrate sampling with our aquatic ecology team next!”