2021 graduates keeping climate in mind
We chat with four new graduates who have all decided to begin their career paths or continue studying with the environment and sustainability firmly in mind. Find out how they are striving to play their part in tackling green issues and climate change.
I graduated (in-person!) in August in Edinburgh from a BSc. (Hons) in Ecological and Environmental Sciences. I just started my Master’s in Environmental Data Science and Machine Learning at Imperial College in London this October.
The reason why I did my undergraduate in Ecology and Environmental Sciences, ironically, stems from my environment -the people I grew up with, my family, and the places I lived.
After spending some time in the suburbs of Paris, I was lucky enough to be able to move to the vibrant city of Hong Kong as a teenager. This is where I discovered what pollution actually looked like. That meant wearing face masks most days, sometimes waking up to smog and having to check the weather forecast for acid rain. On top of that, a part of my family lives in small coal-mining towns in the Lorraine region in France and have suffered the health consequences of greenhouse gas emissions for decades. This combination of experiences therefore led me study the scientific basis of environmental issues as well as the impact of climate change on local communities.
This is still my driving purpose today. I am strong believer that, as we step into our data-heavy world, we need more people that are able to understand that information and find new patterns within it. For example, my undergraduate dissertation was on using satellite data to map mangrove forests, salt-tolerant forested wetlands, in Madagascar and understand the environmental and socio-economic causes of their deforestation. As parts of my family emigrated to France from Madagascar, it felt only natural to me to research this under-represented ecosystem. Fun fact: mangrove forests are estimated to store more than 15% of coastal sedimental carbon storage while they occupy only 0.5% of the global coastal area.
I am now trying to find innovative ways to combine data science and satellite knowledge with local indigenous environmental knowledge and practices. And, who knows, maybe I will go on to do research or work with NGOs to study all of this in more depth and hopefully make an impact (before it is too late).
I think I have been always interested in environmental topics since it just felt as the right thing. However, I have to say that my studies and time spent in Edinburgh opened my eyes. It showed me how much we were lagging behind in Slovakia in terms of climate change awareness and related environmental issues. Additionally, in Edinburgh I was surrounded by lovely people who really strengthen these interests and got me involved in inspiring initiatives.
I am currently based in the capital of Slovakia – Bratislava. The initial period after graduation was difficult for me as I came to terms with being done with my studies, but I'm now looking forward to starting my new job with the governmental here where I will be working on the Recovery and Resilience Plan, in particular on the section of Green Economy.
I will be part of a team designing and implementing interventions to tackle the environmental problems and help the transition towards green economy. I will be working on one of the 5 components – decarbonization of industry; buildings’ retrofitting; green mobility; protection of environment; renewable energy.
I'm also very interested in urbanism and urban resilience. Going forward, I'd like to be part of the City Innovation team or the City Metropolitan Institute that are both keen on participatory planning and aim to develop solutions contributing to urban sustainability.
I decided to pursue a career in environmental studies after being inspired through my participation in environmental camps as a teenager, where the importance of ecological systems and the flora and fauna that reside within those systems was exemplified through a variety of projects and activities.
The first step in securing my path was obtaining my undergraduate degree from the University of Guyana where I was awarded a BSc in Environmental Studies in 2009. From there on, my career path was solidified after securing employment at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Guyana, where my responsibilities were and still are to ensure a balance between economic development and protection and conservation of the country’s natural resources.
But the urge to further qualify myself in the field of biodiversity lingered; but with the demands of family life this seemed a bit out of reach for me. Then I thought about securing an MSc through online approach, and discovered Edinburgh's degree in Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health.
I graduated this year and for me, applying what I have learned to my current post in the Oil and Gas Department of the EPA has never been more important, since often the implications on biodiversity in both the terrestrial and marine environment have often been overlooked. To this end, it is my intention to ensure that the concepts learned throughout this course are communicated through my review process, and to ensure that the appropriate biodiversity safeguards are put in place to protect and conserve my country’s biological patrimony.
Since graduating, I've moved to Stockholm to start a master’s in Landscape Ecology. The first few months as a graduate were filled with quite a bit of stress and uncertainty, as I had grown very comfortable with my life in Edinburgh and had to get used to a new education system, a new city, a new way of life. I was also questioning my choice of master’s degree but have since settled into it and am enjoying my studies.
I have always been interested in biology and environmental sciences, but my interest in environmental issues specifically started in high school. I joined Young Friends of the Earth at my school as an extracurricular and started to learn about various environmental problems and got to tackle some of them hands on. Soon after, I delved into the world of veganism and learned a lot about climate change and our human impact on the world, and from there it blossomed into a topic I wanted to study and continue to tackle.
I think it’s hard to work within ecology and NOT have a huge focus on the changing climate, habitat fragmentation, land use, biodiversity loss, pollution, conservation problems, etc. On a personal scale, I continue to eat fully plant based (vegan) and have for many years shopped consciously, such as buying second hand, from sustainable brands and limiting my fast fashion purchases to items that I know I will love and use for a long time.
I'm also very interested in studying how polar and boreal regions are impacted by environmental changes, as I believe these regions are very understudied compared to the tropics. I am unsure exactly what route I will take after my masters, but a PhD is not completely off the table. A little personal goal of mine is to conduct some studies on Antarctica, as my bachelor’s dissertation worked with Antarctic moss samples that my supervisor had collected. But overall for the future, as long as I get to continue conducting research, I will be happy!