Course studied: BSc Environmental Conservation and Countryside Management
We now offer: BSc (Hons) Ecology and Conservation
Dedication, determination and diplomacy are essential if you want to be a ranger.
More about Ajay
NTU alumnus Ajay Tegla is now employed as a Ranger on Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve - the National Trust's oldest nature reserve. As well as being a published author, Ajay regularly appears on our TV screens as a wildlife presenter. We spoke to him about his career and his NTU memories.
Why did you choose to study at NTU?
Back in 2006, when looking for countryside management courses during my A Levels, I seem to recall UCAS showed only 4 universities/colleges in the UK offering a BSc course. The nearest was Nottingham Trent University (Brackenhurst), about an hour-and-a-half drive from home, so it was the first university I visited. I remember it was a beautiful June day and the campus looked beautiful. After a chat with some of the lecturers, a tour of the campus and accommodation, I could really picture myself there and didn’t feel the need to look any further. The course sounded ideal and the setting was perfect.
What did you learn – both inside and outside of lectures?
I learned such a variety of things, from how to lay a hedge to statistical analysis. The broad range of topics, from countryside law and business to GIS, agriculture to silviculture gave the perfect grounding and understanding of just how broad careers in countryside and environment can be. It was the field trips we did that make me smile the most, from local jaunts into the Peak District and Sherwood Forest to a week-long full-on field trip in southeast Spain - there the tours and surveys we did were useful and enjoyable, as was having more time with course-mates and lecturers in a different environment. I also learned that, although we had schedules and deadlines, the bigger general development of one’s own mind, views, opinions, values and ambitions occurs at its own pace - so student life was a mixture of being organised, and punctual, but also patient.
What does your current day involve?
The joy of my current role as a ranger is that there is not really a typical day! Diversity is the main attraction, alongside working in a beautiful place: Wicken Fen, Britain’s oldest nature reserve. As well as managing the core SSSI, NNR, SAC and Ramsar site, we are restoring and re-wilding an extensive buffer zone surrounding it. So my day often starts with checking on our semi-wild herds of large herbivores. After that, it can be anything from infrastructure repairs, access maintenance, talking to a vet or doing public engagement, the latter sometimes including guided tours with students, which I really enjoy.
What attracted you to this field of work?
Before I started my degree, I knew I enjoyed - and was committed to - working in conservation. A week’s voluntary experience with the National Trust, when I was 15, and meeting some inspirational naturalists set me off on my journey, which led me to NTU.
What challenges have you faced?
When I graduated, I didn’t walk straight into the sort of job I wanted. There were lots of applications and interviews. Eventually, I decided I should do the most relevant job I could find, which wasn’t as a conservationist, but in tourism. However, this offered me the opportunity to volunteer on a nature reserve alongside earning a living. This enabled me to develop further skills, experience and do more of the all-important networking, which did lead me into the work I wanted to do, after about a year.
What have been the highlights and biggest challenges of your career so far?
Highlights include monitoring internationally important seabird and seal colonies, working in television with Chris Packham and seeing some wonderful British wildlife in the course of my work. The biggest challenge relates to seabird management and the essential, but difficult, responsibility of predator control, which was something I hadn’t anticipated when I started out. Dedication, determination and diplomacy are essential if you want to be a ranger.
What are your plans for the future?
I enjoy working out on the nature reserve and don’t want to end up stuck behind a desk too soon! However, I enjoyed writing a book during lockdown and am looking forward to continuing to write articles for BBC Wildlife and Countryfile magazines as well as generating online video content to engage people with the natural world and conservation. My plan is to continue ranger work alongside developing my media career.
If you had a time machine, what would you go back and tell yourself at uni?
It’s a total cliche - and probably annoys students - but “really enjoy this time of your life”. Life moves on faster than you realise, it’s important to work hard and be conscientious as well as sociable and responsible. It’s easy to worry about the future, but it’s so important to enjoy the present, and student life is a wonderful, youthful time of life to really be enjoyed. I do appreciate that everybody has their own experience and challenges, but the opportunity to mix with a wide range of people from different backgrounds is important for everyone. There is the opportunity to make strong and lasting friendships and to really be yourself.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our alumni community?
Returning to Brackenhurst, to give a talk to students, ten years after graduating, something occurred to me. I had been a quiet, shy student. I had seen other people who seemed smarter, more articulate and confident than me and I felt that I was ‘behind’ them. But, my knowledge and confidence has really built as I have achieved things in my career. It is important to maximise opportunities, but you don’t need to put lots of pressure on yourself. Talk to people, be honest and move in the direction that suits you. That’s not to say you won’t need to push outside of your comfort zone, this is important and is one of the things that has helped me develop.
Follow Ajay on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ajay-tegala-175267136/
Still need help?
Abbi McGlennonEquine Sports Science
Adam ChannerEquine Sports Science
Aisling FlemingAnimal Biology