Dr Graham J. Holloway, School of Biological Sciences
Year(s) of activity: 2014-15
Students (mostly BSc Ecology and Wildlife Conservation students) carried out species identification activities in The Centre for Wildlife Assessment and Conservation on Wednesday afternoons. Students were encouraged to ‘adopt’ and focus on a taxonomic group (or community) to acquire deep learning. As a result of this and other activities, we have increased the campus species list to nearly 1700 species, an impressive statistic that we use during Information Days.
- To develop a sense of community amongst the BSc Ecology and Wildlife Conservation students.
- To increase appreciation of the importance of extra-curricular learning.
- To develop skills valued by many potential employers of these students.
There is often a mismatch between what students value from their time at universities and what employers value. Employers in the conservation sector frequently value extracurricular skills in addition to modular learning. A skill that is acutely lacking in graduates is an ability to identify species and, therefore, to carry out surveys under field conditions. The Campus Wildlife Champions project offered a way for undergraduate students to develop their CVs.
The Ecology and Wildlife Conservation programme adviser meets with the students on a regular basis. During these meetings the importance of a strong CV that provides evidence of understanding, interest and learning, vital for career development in the conservation sector, is impressed on the students. Funding provided by the Teaching and Learning Development Fund was used to provide resources to facilitate engagement of students with species identification. Every Wednesday afternoon the project leader, along with Mr. Chris Foster (a Teaching Associate of the School of Biological Sciences), worked with the students in labs to help them to get to grips with specialised identification keys.
One of the main objectives was to encourage students to appreciate that on completing their degree programme their CV becomes the most important element in their armoury. Students need to take charge of their own learning to develop their skills so that their CVs showcase who they are and what they can deliver to a potential employer. Relying entirely on learning through modular teaching is unlikely to make them special. For this reason I was not happy to make this activity compulsory; students had to choose for themselves whether they were interested and how far they would like to take the activity. Seventeen students engaged with the project but this number dropped off as the academic year progressed, in particular as the examination period approached. Several students though remain active and it is hoped that they will continue a second year.
This type of activity had not been attempted before so we were unsure how it would unfold. To have several students still interested in the activity is great and I will be encouraging these students to resume engagement during the coming academic year and to interact with the new cohort of students starting in September 2015. Continuity was a major aspiration so to have a real prospect that Part Two students could become mentors for Part One students is excellent. It is not obvious how we could have done things differently or better while operating within the constraints.
The Campus champion project has appeared as a university news item:
Data from the project are contributed to the Whiteknights Biodiversity website: