What’s it like to be a Senior Ecological Consultant at a top environmental consultancy? Irfaan Junaideen, takes us through his typical Monday in an ecology team in the company’s Guildford office.
The first day of the week is key in the life of any ecologist. Mondays typically begin with setting in stone everything that I need to achieve for the week ahead, starting with a look over last week’s tasks to see what needs completing, checking our company planner, reading through emails and checking in with my line manager and the rest of my team. This helps me to put together a list of what needs doing for the week ahead.
We then move ahead to the ‘Monday morning meeting’, a great time-honoured tradition at Thomson to connect everyone across the company through Skype for regional offices and the head office boardroom for a quick summary of the key events that’d happened over the last week as well as what’s to come in the forthcoming week.
A meeting of the senior members of the teams follows the company meeting – an opportunity for senior staff members in the company to go through our key projects, quotes and reports. As a senior ecologist one of my roles is as a technical reviewer; ensuring our reporting holds up to our high standards. The meeting is also an opportunity to put my name forward for any reviews that need urgently completing.
Once my list is compiled, I go about completing each task, prioritising by urgency. For example, first on the list might be completing a review of a European Protected Species License (EPSL) for bats. This will typically start with a call to the project manager to flesh out the details before carrying it forward.
I always like to have a clear vision of what I’m doing from the start, which makes the rest of the job go a lot smoother. Reviews can take any length of time depending on the subject; EPSLs can be quite complicated documents as they encompass a wide array of ecological work, from surveys to impact assessments and mitigation strategies for an entire development.
They can also sometimes cover multiple impacted species and roosts, whereas other times they can be for quite small projects involving a small number of species. For example, a single bat roost to be impacted by maintenance works on a railway bridge – not too complicated, so shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours.
Around lunch time is an opportunity to forget about work for a half an hour and partake in an active, frenetic session of hacky-sac – another time-honoured tradition within the Thomson family that’s one of the highlights of our more social office life here.
While I wasn’t unfamiliar with the simple but fun sport of hacky-sac before starting at Thomson, it’s now a household name and an excellent way of keeping things relaxed at work and reinforces the strong sense of camaraderie amongst the teams.
It’s back to work and having completed the EPSL review and discussed my comments with my colleague who authored it, I move onto the next item on my list.
As the technical species lead for bats at Thomson, I have the responsibility for keeping our assessment standards and techniques up to date, as well as developing our internal training programme. For example, I’m in the middle of developing a bats training pathway for our staff. This will help people at various points in their careers to know what the next step will be in further developing their skills, reaching a higher level of expertise in the field, and how to achieve that.
Regardless of how much I have going on, I always have time for my colleagues, whether it’s just checking in on my team members on how they’re getting along with their respective workloads or being there when they need some advice throughout the course of the day. Having started all the way at the bottom as a casual field surveyor, I understand how daunting it can be when starting out. So, I always make time to help junior staff.
Before I head home, I look upon my list for the day, round off the tasks that I’ve completed, review those that I’ve not and, once again, compile a list for the next day – rinse repeat.
If you’ve been inspired by Irfaan’s ‘day in the life of’ and think this could be you, we might just be the kind of organisation you’re looking for. Check out our latest vacancy for a Senior Ecological Consultant.