September was a whirlwind, where did the time go?
I started off the month on holiday with my dad in New York and Washington, D.C. You can read more about my time there by following the links, but highlights included: The American Museum of Natural History, Kinky Boots and the Brooklyn Heights promenade and walking the Mall and walking the Mall (and seeing it at night) and the Holocaust Museum.
After the trip with my dad, I had a few days to say my final goodbyes to my family and friends before I moved to England on the 11th (landing on the 12th local time).
My first few days in Brighton were really hectic. My housemates and I moved into our house on the 13th and spent the next few days getting our ducks in a row with all sorts of shopping trips and university errands.
Then, I spent a week giving the Camino de Santiago my best shot. I started in Porto, Portugal and got about halfway to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (about 150 miles) before tapping out. My blisters still aren’t healed so I’m glad I didn’t try for more. I hope to return and walk the last 100 kilometers of the Camino at some point in the near future!
My lectures started at the beginning of this week with inductions on Monday, where I only then found out about a three day mandatory camping trip for the first time that left the next morning at 8AM (my program is very unorganized, but that’s for another time…).
All the Master’s students (about 25) in the “school” (conservation biology, animal behavior and global biodiversity conservation degrees) met at the university bright and early to catch a coach to Knepp wildland, about half an hour northwest of the university. The Knepp site describes their project as follows:
“Knepp is a 3,500 acre estate just south of Horsham, West Sussex. Since 2001, the land – once intensively farmed – has been devoted to a pioneering rewilding project. Using grazing animals as the drivers of habitat creation, and with the restoration of dynamic, natural water courses, the project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife. Extremely rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding here; and populations of more common species are rocketing.
The vision of the Knepp Wildland Project is radically different to conventional nature conservation in that it is not driven by specific goals or target species. Instead, its driving principle is to establish a functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible. The aim is to show how a ‘process-led’ approach can be a highly effective, low-cost method of ecological restoration – suitable for failing or abandoned farmland – that can work to support established nature reserves and wildlife sites, helping to provide the webbing that will one day connect them together on a landscape scale.”
Knepp is a really interesting local conservation project and although the module relevant to re-wilding isn’t until next term, the course conveners thought it would be most beneficial to have this field trip at the beginning of the first term so we could get to know each other and the staff.
The day we arrived, we set up camp and had a short lecture on the history and mission of the wildland followed by a tour of the southern block. After that, we set trail cameras activated by motion to record any animals passing through and small mammal traps to check at the end of our time at camp. That evening, we set bat traps as well, but didn’t have any success catching them.
The next day, we had a short lecture on animal behavior field techniques and tried them out ourselves by posing questions about the local wildlife (my team observed the Exmoor ponies) and using the techniques we learned to answer them to the best of our abilities. That night, we were given a lecture on the projects available for our dissertations and had time to socialize and speck to professors about projects we’re interested in and talk amongst ourselves about the course.
The final day, we practiced identifying vegetation using transects and field guides as well as drones (which was really cool, even if I didn’t get to fly it) before heading back to the university. Although I was really anxious at first with this trip sprung on me and being kind of forced to interact with so many people, I met a lot of great people and can’t wait to see what the year has in store!
Yesterday, I met up with my Buddies for the first time! At my university, we have a program called Buddy Scheme, where local students volunteer to mentor international students. As a returning international student, I thought I had a good perspective to offer incoming students, so I signed up to be a mentor and got three Buddies: Jasmine (China), Anto(nella) (Italy) and Aude (France). The four of us met up for a few activities in Brighton. We all rode the relatively new i360, the world’s tallest moving observation tower right in the center of Brighton, for the first time. It was such a great experience with killer views, although I miss the charismatic Brighton Wheel that was torn down at the end of my study abroad program. After that, we went to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Brighton: Wahaca. We all enjoyed our Mexican meal, even though my Buddies weren’t familiar with the food. I’m really glad they took a chance and trusted me!
What I’m watching: What the Health, Logan Lucky, Neerja, The Truth About Alcohol, Okja, Rick and Morty (season 3), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (season 1)
What I’m listening to: Blossom by Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, The Peace and the Panic by Neck Deep, Good Nature by Turnover, The Spark by Enter Shikari
What I’m reading: Replay by Ken Grimwood