More about Savannah
“I chose the Zoo Biology course at NTU for a number of reasons. After visiting on an open day I learnt a lot about the lecturers and their current research - they have so much knowledge to share with you. I’d also already studied a BTEC Extended Diploma in Animal Management here so I know how amazing the facilities such as the animal unit, equestrian centre, farm and library are.
“Zoo Biology is a degree that focuses on exotic species - mainly non-domestic animals and wildlife, whether it be their biology, management or conservation. There is a wide range of opportunities to apply the skills you have learnt such as trips to Poland and Mauritius.
“I particularly enjoy getting involved in volunteering with projects at Brackenhurst. Around the Easter period I helped at the farm during lambing season, which gave me an amazing insight into something I normally wouldn’t get the chance to do. The animal unit also run volunteer sessions which gives you more practical experience - it can include anything from handling reptiles to making enrichment for goats.
“Choosing to study at NTU has been the best decision I have ever made. I’ve received so much support from all the staff in finding work, placements and getting the most out of my time here. The course has enabled me to meet so many new friends and I can’t wait to see where the rest of the course takes me.
“I’m hoping to go on a placement during my studies and have been looking to apply at places all over the world such as Durrell Wildlife Park, Bristol Zoo and a sea turtle conservation effort in New Zealand. I’m also going on a trip to Madagascar with the Zoo Biology course to look at the conservation of the Coquerel’s Sifka.
“Being a student at NTU is like being part of a family and there is a real community at Brackenhurst. Everybody knows each other, there’s a friendly atmosphere on campus and everybody comes together on a Friday for the student union night, Fluid.
“When I finish my degree I would like to go into exotic species recovery and conservation. I’m considering staying on for a master’s degree, however my year-long placement may offer some full time opportunities. The skills I have learnt so far are ones that I can apply to so many different situations, as the course has given us a broad range of knowledge.
“The extra volunteering and showcase of what students have gone onto do after graduating has also helped. It has made me realise that there is such a wide range of options other than just zoo work.”
During her third year, Savannah undertook a placement at Bristol Zoo Gardens. We caught up with her to see what she got up to.
Tell us a little more about your placement?
“For my placement I went to Bristol Zoo Gardens to work with the Bristol Zoological Society in their Conservation, Education and Field Science department. This meant I was working as a research assistant for a wide range of projects being undertaken by the team, as well as my own personal project.
“I was also on hand to assist with on-the-ground research being undertaken within the zoo, such as looking at visitor engagement and educational signage evaluations, and carrying out surveys with the visiting public. I was also able to assist with other groups that the zoo worked closely with, such as the Avon Gorge and Downs project, and help with their education sessions for young school children.”
What kind of thing did you get up to on a daily basis?
“Daily life was always varied! I’d arrive in the morning before the zoo opened and check my emails, and then start working on anything left over on my to-do list from the previous day. I’d usually work on any tasks for the team in the morning and complete them before lunch time, and then use the afternoon to work on my own project.
“Occasionally we’d get invited to staff meetings, or do some work over at the zoo’s sister site, the Wild Place Project, so we would sometimes travel out there in the afternoon. Some days I also got to spend out and about within the zoo for the most part, undertaking research with visitors or observing behaviours.”
How did your placement help with your personal development and degree?
“My placement enabled me to get a real insight into the quality of work needed for a career within the zoo research industry, but also helped me to learn how to achieve that quality from people already working in the roles I aspire to.
“My academic writing improved significantly, I became much more confident when networking with professionals, and most importantly, my placement really highlighted how much I’d like to work in the roles I assisted with.
“When I returned to university to complete my final year, I found I was much more engaged with lectures, my writing was of a much better standard, and I had so much motivation to work hard and achieve my goals.”
How did you secure your placement?
“During my second year, I began looking for placements using InPlace and general searches, usually by looking for institutions that I enjoy and then investigating to see if they offered work placements. I applied to a small range that I would be happy working at, and managed to secure an interview for each.
“After being offered a placement for all of them, I then sat down and worked out the finer details to determine which I’d be able to afford, which offered the most flexibility with learning, and which I thought I’d enjoy the most. As they were all different placements, this was very difficult, but I settled on Bristol Zoo and definitely feel like I’d made the right decision.
“My advice to students looking to do a placement would be to start researching them early to give yourself the best chance of securing. If it’s a practical based placement, see what skills you can get in advance that might give you the edge in interview, and if it’s research or education based, see if you can work on your academic writing or communication skills.
“Start planning the cost early too, as it can be a big factor in the decision. Whilst you’re on placement, make the most of it! It’s an incredible opportunity to learn from individuals who have all taken different routes and are in the roles you’re studying for, so try and integrate yourself as best as possible and get as much out of the experience as you can.”