Putting the ‘Res’ in ‘MRes’!

With the taught component of Semester 1 well and truly behind us, we’re all getting our teeth into our research projects now and beginning to discover the big, wide world of research…! The last few weeks have been a real change from the rest of our academic careers so far as we’ve begun to get started with our research projects.  During Semester 1, we all had an idea what our projects would be on, but the time came for us to dive in at the deep end and get a project proposal submitted.  The projects are all based on areas that Marwell have identified as requiring research.  Our supervisory team includes a member of Marwell’s Conservation Team who specialises in our project area and leads the corresponding area of conservation work at Marwell, giving us the best starting point we could ask for!  With the help of our supervisors and many, many hours of reading, projects were planned out, budgets were created and risk assessments were completed; all were typed up into proposals and handed in by some very content MRes students!  Since our next deadline is not until the end of August (!!!), we thought we could spare an evening to head to Dani’s and watch Disney films all night, with talk of work banned!

To keep us all grounded in the real world, there’s been mini projects to be getting on with alongside our research projects.  It’s been hard to find the time to slot them in, but they make a great break from our projects and a nice chance to all get together again!  In February, before people disappeared off to sunnier climates, we had our first public engagement workshop.  This was led by Hilary, Marwell’s Public Engagement Coordinator.  We talked through the basics of presentation skills and how to engage your audience and talk in an interesting and interested voice.  Going through the basics was useful considering some of us haven’t done much presentation work before.  We also tried ‘Just A Minute’ on various topics and got in a tangle with some tongue twisters…!  Public engagement features a fair amount in conservation and this workshop was the first in a series designed to teach us valuable skills in communicating our work to a wider, non-scientific audience.  We’ll also get the chance to be hands-on with public engagement towards the end of the course and present some of Marwell’s species talks to the public!

We’ve also rennovated the sand lizard enclosure at Marwell where they house a breeding population of around 10 Dorset sand lizards. Over the past year, their enclosure had become rather overgrown so we researched what their ideal habitat comprises and presented our findings to Dr Martin Wilkie (who leads the sand lizard project at Marwell) and the other members of the Marwell Conservation Team.  They liked our ideas and we arranged a date to head up to the enclosure with Martin for a day to do some weeding on an ENORMOUS scale!  The weather was kind to us, the thorns were not, and after a few hours of battling with unwanted gorse bushes and artfully arranging slates and rocks, we’d created a sand lizard paradise!  Well, I perhaps wouldn’t go that far, but the lizards seem impressed with the new décor!  We finished the day in the traditional style for Pancake Day at Rachel’s house; many pancakes were consumed!  Now the lizards are waking from hibernation, we’ve taken on some of the day-to-day responsibilities with them, such as feeding and monitoring and it’s proving to be a very nice break from sitting at a desk!

Mmm, crickets for lunch!

Ta da! Our work is done!

That pretty much gets you up to date with our news for now; the rest of our time is being spent working on our individual projects!  Just to quickly update you with how they’re going: Rob is now back from his data collection out in Tunisia and has probably seen enough small mammals to last a lifetime! Laura has gone back to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya for her data collection and we’re all envious of the pictures she keeps sending us!  Rachel and Dani’s desks at Marwell are becoming their second home as they get their questionnaires ready to send out to zoos across Europe.  Nat is getting final preparations underway for her data collection in Kenya and I’ve started work up at Eelmoor, where the weather is not quite as fine as Kenya!

Laura helping to collar a Grevy's!

Laura helping to collar a Grevy’s!

The Przewalski's Horses on Eelmoor!

The Przewalski’s Horses on Eelmoor!









Check back over the coming weeks for more detailed individual updates on how people’s projects are going!

Written by Eleanor Rendells

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2 Responses to Putting the ‘Res’ in ‘MRes’!

  1. Shelly Wolff says:

    Hi, My name is Shelly and I am just emailing to ask that if you would be able to tell me more about the wildlife course at Southampton. I am thinking of applying, so would like some information about what the course entails e.g other than the research project. This could be the modules that you do in the first semester on the course.

    If you could get back to me about this then I would be much grateful.


    From Shelly