My work with Bristol Parks

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Dodeye Omini, Environmental Consultancy MSc Student from UWE Bristol, shares his experience of undertaking a Placement with Bristol Parks during a pandemic.

As an MSc student in Environmental Consultancy, a placement is a requirement for the award of my degree. Therefore, after completing the compulsory coursework, it was time to get a placement. I applied to as many places as I could, but they would always have a reason to turn down the application. I got frustrated, but I remained hopeful that I would find the right placement.

I attended events like the Bristol City Green Mingle on the advice of Ian Brook and Joe Barnes who supported me through the process and encouraged me to network. I attended one of the mingles and networked with employers and employees. Luckily, I met Katherine Philips whilst I was there, the Learning and Development Advisor for the Climate Change Department at Bristol City Council. She recommended a couple of organisations and opportunities that I should look into. One of these organisations was Bristol Parks who had a voluntary conservation position available.

The internship was focused on forestry conservation, particularly the conservation of the Ash tree. I was responsible for assisting in surveying the Ash tree, a species which has been marked for extinction in the future, as a result of the disturbing ash dieback disease. Bristol Parks are aiming to protect the Ash trees present in reserves and parks throughout the city to prevent the complete eradication of this species in Bristol. By surveying the trees, we will assess the status of the tree canopy to see if the disease has affected it or not before the tree officers will advise the council on the appropriate action to take.

The next phase, and most interesting, is the green area survey. Most of the green areas in Bristol are used either as parks or as growing areas for hay production. This survey will assess the species richness of the sites under our jurisdiction, consider the habitat type of the sites and send in a report to the City Council. This will inform the council if the surveyed sites need improvement and what steps can be taken to improve them.

Throughout the placement, I was able to develop my understanding of ecology, specifically UK habitat classification. After I’d completed it, I felt far more competent in classifying the type of habitat by the grass and tree species on site. I am also more aware of which species are local to the UK and which are from different regions and have found that I can name plants more quickly. After working in the parks, I decided to focus on the Ash tree for my dissertation and feel that, although I had studied it prior to my placement, I am now able to include a practical view in my writing.

I feel very fortunate because I managed to secure my placement prior to the lockdown. However, I could not start because we could not meet for a proper briefing of my role and we also were not able to gain access to parks because of government restrictions. Overall, there was a slow start and travel restrictions affected the pace of work. 

Overall, I greatly enjoyed my placement. I feel that my understanding of ecology is stronger now than it was before I undertook my placement and that I have gained a stronger sense of community whilst working in different areas of Bristol.

Learning Science Ltd

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Ryan Cornwell, Biomedical Sciences at UWE Bristol, reflects on his internship for Learning Science Ltd as a Learning Resource Development Intern.

My work varied from Beta testing learning science resources, to reading and expanding my knowledge on scientific techniques and even creating my own learning science resource that will be seen in multiple universities across England. 

This is one of the best things I could have done to support my degree. I was met with interesting and varied work daily with the added benefit that no two days were the same. Work was never overwhelming as I had a solid support network provided by my work colleagues. I can’t recommend Learning science enough and the same for the internship scheme.

“We have gained hugely from having a student on the team who can provide real insight into learning needs and challenges.” Ryan’s manager found his knowledge and support invaluable. Following his internship, Ryan has been asked to continue working for Learning Science on an adhoc basis.  

You can read more about Ryan’s experience on the Learning Science Blog


Taking part in the UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 

The UWE Bristol Undergraduate Scheme 2020 has now launched and is a brilliant way to gain work experience for your CV and earn some money over the Summer. This year internship opportunities will be offered online. For more details visit the Internships website

51 Months Later – back in the life with Zircon…

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By Juan Acosta Fisco, Graduate and Software Engineer at Zircon Software

My name is Juan and I am a software engineer at Zircon Software. The title of this post is related to my previous blog post for Zircon (Ten Months in the Life …, available on the company website). As one might expect, a lot has changed in that time, not least my academic progression from undergraduate to graduate and making my way back to Zircon. The focus of this post will be to compare my perspective from back then with the one I hold now. 

As a placement student at Zircon, you spend a lot of time learning. Concretely in my case I learned the languages Python, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and SQL; got to grips with object oriented programming and threading; and acquired skills in web development and database management.

As a graduate, the training-working balance is shifted somewhat towards the latter, but I am pleased to report that I am still learning, having now also added Java & C# to my repertoire as well as developing experience with messaging patterns and Xamarin Forms. Furthermore, Zircon takes a proactive approach in ensuring you are continually improving your skillset, building in time for training and suggesting development routes. 

The cohesive and supportive work environment at Zircon continues. Some faces have changed, due to the period of time I was away to finish up my degree. However many are still here and the office culture that has proved so conducive to Zircon’s success prevails, curated and maintained by all those privileged to form a part of it. 

In my previous post I touched on Zircon’s tangible ambition and hunger for success, well it seems like once you have a taste for it nothing else will do. Zircon has roughly doubled in terms of staff numbers and turnover since then, and continues to aim higher. Regular in-house communication and coordination ensures that we are all striving for, and ultimately achieving, this common goal. 

Coming back in a graduate capacity has offered up fresh new challenges which I didn’t experience as a placement student. I work much more closely with clients, auditors and project managers to deliver high quality software. I have had excellent guidance in navigating these new challenges and have not just acquired new professional skills, useful in any context, but have also become a more complete software engineer. 

As a placement student I discussed the excitement and motivation that comes with the opportunity to work on a product to be deployed and used regularly in the real world, by real users, for a real application. Upon graduating I wanted to return as Zircon is always keen on acquiring new customers and breaking into new markets. I have also had a chance to do something I didn’t predict; revisit a past project. 

The product I worked on as a placement student is live and stable, with continuing enhancements as new requirements come in. The opportunity to revisit this work was very gratifying, like catching up with an old friend. As I come to the end of this post, I feel like this is perhaps the best and closest metaphor to how I feel about my experience here as a graduate versus a placement student, a feature enhancement.