Friday, 26 October 2012

My placement year: Alex Leeper

Alex Leeper has recently returned from her placement year, spending part of it in the UK and another part in Singapore. Here is her account...

The first six months of my placement year were spent volunteering at Bangor University working Primarily with Dr. Louise Firth, and Dr. Cara Hughes.  The main task while I was there was to assist in the processing of sediment cores taken from around sites of planned, under construction, and established breakwater sites in Cardigan Bay.  This meant lots of lab time and practice, both in sorting and taxonomy.  I was living on Anglesey, a place I had never even visited before, and really fell in love with the area, particularly the community and the beautiful landscape.  While my placement was heavily lab based there was still lots of opportunities to gain valuable fieldwork experience, for example at Borth (in picture) a site of construction of a new design of breakwater scheme, where health and safety required us to be suited and booted In High Vis gear!

One of the highlights and biggest challenges of the placement was running a fieldwork trip team myself, which included myself and 3 past and present students of Bangor University, the biggest hurdle being the 3 hour drive through Snowdonia national park with little to no petrol and no garages for miles with any petrol left (fortunately all went well in the end).  I got to work with a really diverse range of people, including consultants at CAMS, a secondary school work experience student, and Masters Students in a benthic ecology practical.

The best moment was a four day trip on board the lovely Prince Madog (pictured right) which I was lucky enough to take part in on two occasions looking at benthic trawls and the scallop fisheries in the Irish Sea, with a short night stay on The Isle of Man.

My second placement was a completely different environment to a university, and one I was much less familiar with.  The Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI) are an international consultancy focussed on challenges in water environments, and I was based in their Singapore office.  A lot of my work was based in the office as it was research based for the Environmental Management Services department.  My main task was writing a literature review for one of the companies contracts on the background of ecological thresholds and how they might be useful in the management of coastal biodiversity in Singapore (Pictured right).

DHI were fantastic to intern with, and made me feel at home from the first day.  The best thing about this placement was the flexibility and generousity I was given to pursue my own research and skill interests within the company.  For me this meant stepping into an area that in truth I didn’t think was something I would ever be able to do, numerical modlling and hydrodynamic simulations.  I had no background in this area and thought that it would be off limits to me, but the company were kind enough to spend time advising me and allowed me access to their software and training resources.  Since the I have intergrated numerical modelling into my final year project, and discovered a new passion.