Grad blog Ellen Banner

Life as a Graduate Ecologist

Ellen discusses her time at MKO and what a day in the life of a Graduate Ecologist looks like. Ellen studied Environmental Science at the University of Galway and joined MKO in 2022.

Can you describe your current role and responsibilities as an Ecologist? 

During the summer months, every day is different, and I can be on-site weekly. One day, I am in a woodland searching for mammal tracks and local flora and the next, I could be on a dusk bat survey monitoring roosts and their behaviours. Each project I am working on brings along something new to learn. Since starting with MKO, I have had the opportunity to travel all over Ireland and partake in mammal surveys, bat surveys, habitat surveys, invasive species surveys, and aquatic surveys.

Before I go out into the field to conduct a site visit, I will do a desk study of the area to note any flora or fauna previously recorded or protected species that I need to keep a lookout for. I will do this using numerous sources such as the NPWS, the National Biodiversity Data Centre, QGIS mapping, and the New Flora Atlas, among many others. It also gives me a head start regarding what habitat and landscape I will visit. The best part of the job is getting out into the field. My main focus while out on site is identifying the habitat and checking for any mammal signs and activity. This usually involves taking relevés throughout the site and gathering species lists, carrying out an extensive walkover of the site, and looking for signs such as badger setts, snuffle holes, otter holts, burrows, footprints, scats, or potential bat roosts in old trees or buildings. During my short time at MKO, I have completed reports such as Appropriate Assessments, Natura Impact Statements, and Ecological Impact Assessments and contributed to Biodiversity chapters for Environmental Impact Assessment Reports for larger-scale projects.

I have also been given the opportunity to register with the Irish Aviation Authority for my A1 and A3 Drone Pilot Licence. This has allowed me to partner up with my colleagues from the Landscape and Visual team and gather video footage and photographic imagery of habitats and ecosystems.

How did you find the recruitment process for your role at MKO?

I was fortunate to partake in a three-month internship with MKO in 2021 while in my third year at university. During this short time, I was allowed to experience the many departments and services MKO has to offer and meet many great people along the way. As I was coming into my final semester of college, MKO was the first place I considered to begin my career as an ecologist. I was lucky enough to be asked back for an interview and offered a job just before my final year exams in 2022.

How would you describe the culture at MKO?

The culture here at MKO is next to none. They provide a positive and productive working environment where all employees are encouraged and given the opportunity to grow and progress throughout the company. MKO has a fantastic social committee where events happen in and outside of the office almost every month. These include quiz nights, escape rooms, trips around Ireland, a running club, pottery classes, and golf tournaments, to name a few, but best of all is the cake, coffee, and chats every Monday morning in the office canteen for a catch up on the weekend excursions.

What do you enjoy most about your role at MKO?

I love to get outside; my biggest love is our Irish wildlife and landscapes. Being an ecologist allows you to be a part of the conservation and protection of our habitats here in Ireland and to give back and make a difference. Nature has always inspired me and my career, and including it as part of my daily workday is a dream come true.

What piece of advice would you give potential applicants to the graduate programme?

If you love wildlife, nature and being outdoors then ecology is the job for you. You learn something new every day, and no two days are the same. Get involved, and don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Be ready to learn, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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