A conservationist has graduated from Edge Hill University with the highest marks not only on her course but across all postgraduate arts and sciences courses this year.

Natalie Hunt, 38, from Southport, wanted to change direction in her career after working in contaminated land remediation for 15 years.  As a project manager, she was responsible for the design, implementation and management of site investigations, remediation schemes, risk assessment and validation for a wide range of client sectors across the UK.

She said:

“I had been looking for the right course for the last few years to change direction in my career and I spotted the MSc Conservation Management course advertised in Butterfly Conservation magazine. I was attracted to the balance between ecological theory and the practical application of conservation management with plenty of fieldwork and the opportunity to do a conservation placement.

“As a ‘mature’ student, I was a bit trepidatious about going back to university so many years after my first degree but I needn’t have worried.  Edge Hill University has everything you could possibly need to make it very easy to get back into the swing of things from an extensive, 24-hour library, easy access to work stations and different study rooms to suit every individual and coffee available in almost every building!  The campus, with all its green spaces and water features makes it a very friendly, pleasant place to study and a university which I would recommend to anyone.”

Natalie completed a work placement at Ainsdale National Nature Reserve (NNR) as part of her course, and has continued to volunteer there since. The placement inspired her thesis, which she hopes will be published in a scientific journal.

She said:

“With Natural England at the Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR I work with a small group of dedicated volunteers and we get involved in a variety of tasks from clearing scrub, checking livestock, tree planting, mending fences to surveying many of the unique species of flora and fauna to be found at the reserve.  Seeing conservation in action and being able to put my identification skills learned on the course to the test has proved an invaluable experience. My research project stemmed from this – the study aimed to look at open dune habitat regeneration and the effects of management and distance to existing open dunes on plant community composition within formerly forested pine plantation canopy gaps.”

Natalie said she was ‘speechless!’ when she found out about her top marks. “I had no idea.  It makes all the hundreds of hours reading and researching even more worthwhile.”

And what does the future hold?

“My goal is to turn what was essentially my hobby into a career and this course, together with volunteering as much as possible, are the first steps towards that,” she said. “I am looking forward to progressing my career in conservation management, wherever that may lead.”

Find out more about studying MSc Conservation Management here