Alumni Services

Susan Cheyne

Susan Cheyne used her summer holidays to explore career options through volunteering, and is reaping the benefits today in her job working with orangutans in Indonesia.

Name Dr Susan M Cheyne
Degree Course Zoology
Year of Graduation 1998
Susan Cheyne

Your time at the University

I came to Edinburgh in 1994 as my first choice university. I had toured the School of Biology and was certain this was the place for me: not only did the university seem the perfect place but there was something about the city which just said ‘home’.

I started in Environmental Studies but switched in my second year feeling that zoology was the course for me. Studying had to be fitted around exploring the day and nightlife of Edinburgh, a full hockey schedule and the fact that I always managed to live at least 30 minutes walk from the King's Buildings.

Summer holidays were always the time to try and ‘achieve’ something (other than hockey tours at Easter!) and the one which really helped shape my career was in 1997 between my 3rd and 4th year when I went to Thailand to volunteer at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project near Phuket. I became a near victim of a falling coconut in Thailand, though fortunately it glanced off my shoulder! No more or less hazardous than field trips up Salisbury Crags or out to the beaches of the east coast of Scotland!

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

My interest in primatology, animal behaviour and conservation was peaked in second year especially by Dr Liz Rogers.

Following my volunteering experience in Thailand and subsequent fieldwork in South Dakota, USA, Liz was instrumental in kick-starting my career. She supported my application for a PhD at the University of Cambridge and the rest, as they say, is history.

I went to Indonesia in 2002 and am still working there, now co-director of the Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, lecturer in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University and full-time conservation biologist.

Without my experiences in Edinburgh, access to summer placements and the support of the staff I would not be where I am now – thank you!

Susan Cheyne

I established the first long-term gibbon research and conservation project in Indonesia and we are now celebrating out 10th anniversary.

I also established the first long-term camera trapping project in Indonesia in 2008 and have gained new insights into the elusive mammals of the South East Asian mammals.

In 2011 I co-founded a project leading expeditions in to the highlands of Indonesian Borneo to work towards both social and conservation solutions for the forest. I am still involved in fieldwork as well as supervising undergrad and postgrad students who want to come to the field. Without my experiences in Edinburgh, access to summer placements and the support of the staff I would not be where I am now - thank you!

Alumni wisdom

Take the time to speak to your lecturers if you share similar interests and get their knowledge and advice - I promise they are human too!

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