Tuesday Feature episode 10: Kat Machin

From the ‘sunny’ gardens of Fallowfield last week (since then, the Manchester weather has returned back to its rainy norm) to the Seychelles this week, our Faculty is far flung and international. This week we feature another one of our graduates!

What was/is your role in the Faculty?

I was an undergraduate student, studying Zoology with Industrial Experience.  The course was fantastic, covered a wide picture three katrange of topics and offered loads of travel opportunities through field courses in places like South Africa, Belize (now Costa Rica) and Ecuador.  The Industrial Experience year allowed me to gain hands-on conservation work with the Island Conservation Society, an NGO in Seychelles.  In my second year, I co-founded the Zoology Society, which continues to be run by a committee of students, and in my final year I was a student ambassador.

What are you up to now?

After graduating in July, I travelled to Canada with a fellow zoology graduate and we volunteered at an eco-lodge, where we led guided nature hikes for tourists and helped out with the general maintenance of the lodge.  Then, after a couple of months at the lodge, we travelled around Alberta and British Columbia, stopping off at friends’ houses, who I’d met when they came to Manchester as exchange students.

Once back on home soil, I started the tedious process of applying for jobs, mostly in the conservation sector.  After a few months, I got offered a job as a Tern Warden with the RSPB and will be starting with them in a couple of weeks.  I’ll be working in Anglesey and my job will involve monitoring the populations of Artic and Common Tern, as well as one of Britain’s rarest breeding seabirds – the Roseate Tern.  I’m really excited to get started and put everything I learnt at Manchester to good use!

Why did you first get interested in your area of research?

I’ve been interested in animals for as long as I can remember but I suppose I really got hooked when I was a teenager and picture one katDavid Attenborough’s Planet Earth series was released.  I became obsessed with learning about how animals were adapted to their environments, was captivated by animal behaviour and probably most importantly, became really concerned with the conservation of the species that fascinated me.

When it came to choosing unis and courses, Manchester topped my list mainly because of the option to take a placement in your third year.  As a placement student in Seychelles, I was involved with the sea turtle and sea bird monitoring programmes and loved it. I was also involved in the Giant Aldabra Tortoise breeding programme and had the pleasure of sharing my house with tiny giant tortoise hatchlings, which were under my care.  Furthermore, I got the chance to design, implement and analyse my own research project, which looked into the forest rehabilitation of Desroches Island. My placement allowed me to get a real taste for conservation research and confirmed for me that that was the type of career I wanted to pursue.

Do you have any science heroes? Who inspired you?

It’s a bit of a cliché, and I suppose he’s more a science communicator than a scientist per-say but David Attenborough has definitely been my major source of inspiration. Growing up in Telford, there wasn’t a lot of nature around really, so the television was my window to the natural world.  I doubt I would have been inspired to pursue a career in conservation without having watched all those nature programmes.picture two kat

I was also very lucky to have a geography teacher, who after spending a decade travelling, really inspired me to get out and see the world.  She got me really interested in ecosystems, and I continue to be fascinated by ecology today.

How has studying in Manchester helped you?

Enormously.  Not only did the course provide me with the theoretical knowledge essential for a career in conservation, but I also gained practical field experience and developed a range of skills from analytical thinking to public speaking.  I decided to do a science media project in my final year, giving me an insight into science communication, and this project diversified my skills even further.  The placement year provided me with a year of hands-on conservation experience, without which I doubt I would have gotten the job with RSPB.

What do you do outside of work?

I like to be outside.  I like to feel connected with nature and, for me, there’s no better way to do this than to simply immerse yourself in it. So, I walk a lot and hike as often as possible. Travel is a big passion.  I got my first taste of travelling as a

student at Manchester.  I went to South Africa on the Animal Behaviour field course in my first year, travelled to Belize for the Marine and Terrestrial Ecology field course in my second year and nabbed 10 months in Seychelles for my placement, it was incredible! Both travel and hiking tie in quite nicely with my other hobby – wildlife photography.picture four kat

Thanks for the interview and stunning photographs Kat,  and good luck with the new job!

I hope you can see the exciting opportunities our undergraduate students have and it might just inspire you to come to the Faculty!