Undergraduate student profiles

Key skills are integrated into all our undergraduate programmes to ensure students gain not just subject knowledge, but the transferable skills valued by employers, such as teamwork, communication, problem-solving and presentation techniques; from the week you arrive at Exeter you will participate in a team-building programme. Fieldwork is an integral part of many of our courses and sporting/outdoor pursuits are encouraged and supported at Exeter. You can find out about training opportunities, job vacancies, skills development sessions, careers fairs and much more on the University of Exeter's CareerZone website.

What do our Biosciences graduates go on to do?

Our graduates are well placed for a variety of careers and opportunities for further study: such as graduate biosciences-related employment (Fisheries officer, Research production scientist); or non-biosciences-based employment (graduate entry military commissions, investment banking). Graduates also choose further study including graduate entry accountancy, dentistry, medicine and veterinary medicine; and further biological study in a range of MSc and PhD programmes around the country. In a typical year about 15% of our graduates will undertake higher degrees, with a further 6% doing a postgraduate certificate in education, often here at Exeter. Read more about recent destinations of our Biosciences graduates.

I came to study a BSc (Hons) in Conservation Biology and Ecology at the Cornwall Campus after completing an FdSc in Zoological Conservation with Cornwall College. The Honours degree was well thought out and presented to us by a variety of experienced and knowledgeable lecturers. The course was exciting and informative; it shapes the way I think today and is a credit to my curriculum vitae. Since leaving those doors, I have worked in Peru for a conservation organisation (ProDelphnus) and, here in the UK, have found employment as a fisheries officer for Marine Scotland (formerly the SFPA). I look forward to a varied and interesting career in biology conservation and owe a great deal of thanks to the staff that supported me during my time studying in Cornwall.
Robin MacLean, Fisheries officer, Marine Scotland

My original plan to complete the Conservation Biology and Ecology undergraduate degree and then gain employment in applied conservation changed somewhat during the time I spent at the Cornwall Campus. Not only did I have a great time in Cornwall, which means I now spend too much of my time in the water on a surf board, the course made me reassess where I thought I could best contribute to conservation of wildlife. Research seemed the obvious choice once the lecturers and staff at Tremough had introduced me to the wide variety of concepts, theories and practical techniques involved with conserving wildlife from the molecular level to global ecosystems. Not being able to drag myself too far from beautiful Cornwall, I’m now at Plymouth University researching a threatened EU priority bird species using population genetic and stable isotope techniques. This gives me the opportunity to travel to some amazing and very isolated locations such as St Kilda, Scotland and Newfoundland, Canada and carry out research that will not only contribute to the understanding of a little studied species, but also affect government policy on conservation management in marine ecosystems. The skills and knowledge I gained from the lectures and extensive field work at Tremough are and will be invaluable.
Tony Bicknell, BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology, now studying: NERC (CASE) funded studentship (PhD) 'Population structuring and dispersal patterns of a highly pelagic marine seabird: implications for Leach’s storm-petrel conservation', University of Plymouth.

I am passionate about conservation so was delighted to be able to go straight into a paid job in the industry once I had graduated, thanks to contacts made through the university. My degree taught me so much about natural history in the UK and the south west in particular so it allowed me to carry on living and working in Cornwall, which I love. The course provides lots of field work to gain first hand knowledge of the UK’s flora and fauna, along with the evolutionary and ecological background of the species you’re identifying and studying. My job entails educating passengers on the boat about marine wildlife and the delicate ecosystems which they are a part of. It has allowed me to explore Falmouth’s amazing marine life including basking sharks, bottlenose dolphins and sunfish and I am constantly learning more about the diverse organisms in the area. In the future I hope to continue a career in marine conservation and I’m sure the skills I learned through this job and my degree will help me to do so.
Laura Bailey, first job: Marine Wildlife Guide, Orca Sea Safaris, Falmouth

I came to university as a mature student and my time at the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus was an excellent introduction into the field of conservation. It made me a better natural historian and introduced me to methods for assessing and analysing biodiversity in environments and populations. The staff are an excellent bunch and their enthusiasm for the subject is contagious. After graduating I was offered a full time job with Flora and Fauna International, which entails me managing and patrolling with a group of rangers in a very remote region of the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. The biggest issues we face are organized wildlife and forest crime against which we mount field patrols and intelligence gathering operations. I’m also working to expand our activities to camera trapping and making estimations of numbers of rare and endemic species in the area. Flora and Fauna International website
Daniel Rasmussen, first job: Law Enforcement Ranger Advisor, FFI, Cambodia

I was one of the few that took a chance on being the first ever starting year of the BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology degree programme. I’m glad to say the decision paid off! I found everything we learned fascinating; from the behaviour of ants that live as massive social groups, and the evolution of colour change in autumn leaves, to just seeing and being able to identify species in the wild and the conservation problems that face National Parks and Reserves. The course gave me all of this. The fieldwork cannot be equalled and is backed up by a variety of seminar and lecture based modules, all taught by a collection of weird and wonderful leading specialists with many links to potential employers and organisations. I love living in Cornwall and was thrilled to be offered a funded PhD here at the Cornwall Campus studying the metapopulation dynamics of the marsh fritillary butterfly.
Mel Smee, BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology, now studying: BBSRC funded studentship (PhD) 'The evolution of dispersal strategies in a butterfly metapopulation'

I choose to study my final year in Cornwall because I thought the course and the location would satisfy my craving to understand and enjoy the natural world. From enigmatic lectures on the evolution of the sexes to pre-lecture trips to the waves: my choice was the correct one. The depth of knowledge conveyed by the ecologists and conservation practitioners leading the course was always inspiring and has left me with an irrevocable sense of commitment to the protection of our ecology. Following the degree ceremony, I found employment on Scottish trawlers as a marine observer – a job which required me to spend days at sea recording the by-catch composition and weight. More comfortable voyages were spent aboard the ‘Fisheries Research Services’ research vessel, where my job entailed ageing, sexing and gutting fish, with the results being submitted to EU fishing quota policy makers. I am currently training to become a wilderness guide in Finland, where the knowledge I obtained from my year in Cornwall is obviously a big help.
Henry Fletcher, first job: Marine observer, Fisheries Research Services, Aberdeen

I started my undergraduate degree in Exeter where I studied a range of module topics including plant and cell biology, genetics, evolution and ecology. I also did some fieldwork at a biosphere reserve in Russia as part of the Terrestrial Ecology field course. During my first two years at Exeter I found I was becoming more interested in ecology and so I chose to move to the Cornwall Campus for my final year. I took full advantage of the links that have developed between the Cornwall Campus and local wildlife and conservation organisations and was able to carry out my dissertation in collaboration with Cornwall Wildlife Trust. I also did a short project assessing a Sphagnum bog at the Eden Project. The course offered plenty of fieldwork experience and I found I really benefited from the seminar-based teaching, which forced me to critically review journal papers and regularly present my ideas. I enjoyed my time at Exeter and was sad to leave, but I had fantastic time during my third year and am currently starting the second year of a funded PhD based at the Cornwall Campus.
Erika Newton, now studying: ESF-funded studentship (PhD) 'Evolutionary ecology of herbivore defence compounds'

My first two years at Exeter provided a comprehensive overview of biology. In my final year I transferred to the Cornwall Campus to specialise in ecology and conservation. Here, I have developed my personal interests through various research projects investigating patterns in marine mammal strandings in collaboration with Cornwall Wildlife Trust and reintroducing captive-bred juvenile lobsters to the wild with the National Lobster Hatchery. The skills and the enjoyment I have gained through my degree have provided me with the competence and ambition to travel to the south Atlantic to carry out fieldwork on marine mammals before I hope to head to Australia for an MSc in marine biology.
Rachel Amies, now studying: MSc in Ecology, James Cook University, Australia

I was attracted to the Cornwall Campus by the range of ecologically based modules and the extensive fieldwork opportunities offered. The small group teaching environment was excellent, with lively seminars devoted to critical assessment of scientific literature, a skill which I have found invaluable in my present work. I particularly enjoyed my final year project, being given the freedom to spend days out on my mountain bike chasing little egrets around the Cornish coastline. After getting a taste of independent research I decided to pursue my interests further at postgraduate level. The academic staff helped me to find a place on a PhD programme at Cambridge and I am now entering my second year of study.
Dave Wright, now studying: NERC-funded studentship (PhD) 'Effect of deer invasion on New Zealand forests', Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge