Specialist ecological recording programme launched

A specialist ecological recording programme to strengthen understanding of the UK’s biodiversity and meet a national green skills gap has been launched at Harper Adams University.

The MSc Biological Recording and Analysis programme will draw upon the strengths of the specialist Shropshire-based University and upon the Field Studies Council, a national environmental charity with Shrewsbury-based headquarters, to create a unique degree.

Course Leader, Dr Joe Roberts said:

“This is about bringing together two specialist institutions to get the best of both.

“The course will pair the rigour of an academic postgraduate degree at Harper Adams with the specialist practical fieldwork that the Field Studies Council can offer.

“Partnering with the charity means students will have direct access to a professional network of biodiversity experts UK-wide. These tutors have specialist knowledge on a wealth of ecological subject areas such as  Bryophytes – which are the liverworts, hornworts and mosses.

“The tutor network includes ecological consultants who have a passion for their subject and experts from related environmental charities or organisations.

“The modules which the Field Studies Council will offer at its Preston Montford Centre near Shrewsbury are small, 10 credit units and this course builds them into a full degree programme.”

The course is designed to help boost the skills of people from a range of backgrounds looking to build their skills across a broad range of terrestrial ecology related topics. It is offered part time in its first year, and teaching is in blocks of between two to five days throughout the year, making the course accessible to those in full-time work.

Joe added:

“There are people out there who may be ecological consultants, who have their first degree but are looking for CPD opportunities.

“The course will be delivered throughout the entire year – which really helps both people and organisations, as students can study alongside their full-time job. With the optional modules, people can build their own course and get the grounding in the specialist knowledge they need.  Some core modules will be compulsory but for the rest of their course, participants can select specialist learning content to follow their interests and tailor a learning journey to suit their needs.”

The partnership between the two institutions means the Field Studies Council can continue to offer its modules as part of a fuller degree programme – and brings that programme to a natural home in Shropshire.

Clare Rooney, Biodiversity Programme Manager from the Field Studies Council said:

“We are extremely proud of this new partnership, and we are delighted to see biological recording being recognised in a formal way.

“We work with thousands of people that have a passion for learning more about UK species and habitats and this presents a fantastic opportunity for them to hone their skills, while obtaining recognisable certification for CPD and career progression. Every year, volunteers, enthusiasts and professionals create thousands of records that contribute to scientific research and conservation decisions – we are glad to see this subject in the academic limelight and hope it will serve to increase the interest in biodiversity identification, surveying and monitoring.”

Joe added:

“Harper Adams University has always been home to courses that are specialist and have experts teaching upon them. We are now looking to move this specialist course to the UK’s leading University for land-based education.

“This is a good news story for Shropshire – I am amazed that the two organisations haven’t worked together on something like this until this point!

“Preston Montford is the head office of the Field Studies Council, and we are just a couple of dozen miles away here in Newport – so it’s great news we will be working together like this to fill a core UK knowledge gap and to help equip people with the tools they need for what is set to be an ever-more important profession.”

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