So, what should a graduate know?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are a few things every little boy should know. Similarly, there are things no girl should go into the world without knowing.

Naughty kids!
You need to be able to do this for a start

So The Ranger was delighted when, exploring the spiffy new website of the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, he discovered a page of advice for budding ecologists – after all, they’re regularly emailing his ‘Ask The Ranger‘ page and asking how to start a career in that sort of thing. Although a ranger and an ecologist are not necessarily the same thing, it’s one possible specialism for the countryside professional. One of the most popular of all the hundreds of pages on Naturenet (ranked 5th this month) has long been ‘Get a job working in the countryside industry, Naturenet shows you how‘. So The Ranger was wandering through the IEEM’s advice, and thinking benevolently about recommending it to some of the supplicants who come seeking his wisdom. Amongst the handy guides to download is a little pamphlet called “What a Graduate Should Know“. The Ranger was idly reading through this when his nonchalant mood began to suddenly dissipate. After all, he’s a Chartered Environmentalist which makes him really, really knowledgeable… or does it? Some random extracts from the pamphlet:

Describe the main systems for mapping habitat types (Phase 1 habitat survey and/or broad habitats) and identify the main groupings of habitats within these. Describe the structure of the NVC tables and the three major groupings within it. Describe the approaches to identifying NVC communities based on quadrat data and critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of each approach… List and describe the main methods available to statistically analyse data including parametric and non-parametric approaches…

If that’s what they’re teaching graduates these days, that’s pretty impressive stuff. He’d have a good go, but suffice it to say that if The Ranger was today obliged to pass a test on ‘What a graduate should know’ he might be slinking out of the exam with his tail between his legs. Maybe too many years have passed since his happy days frolicking around a laboratory full of locusts; and of those years, more have been spent balancing budgets and writing reports than actually out learning about ecology. So here’s some simple advice for all aspirant ecologists – or rangers who fancy developing their ecological field skills. Don’t only worry about professional qualifications. Learn and enjoy your trade by going out to do some good, science-based ecology, and keep doing it. Experience will develop those skills, and you’ll be able to test your knowledge against ‘What a graduate should know’ – and see how you do!

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