My dream career, engaging with the biodiversity all around us
My name is Rachel, I'm an ecologist at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group. I first heard about the organization when reading about the ecology team and their innovative work using trained sniffer dogs to search for protected species. While doing a little more research, I saw an ad for my current role. It was my opportunity to see if Atkins was the right place for me, so I applied. The moment my interview finished, I knew that it was and decided to make the move.
What I do as an ecologist
As a consultant ecologist, I assess the potential impacts that projects could have on biodiversity and provide advice to avoid, mitigate or compensate for them. We also come up with measures to enhance the variety of wildlife at certain sites. This will soon become an even bigger part of our role, with the roll-out of biodiversity net gain as a mandatory requirement for many types of development.
An interesting, varied role
I generally split my time between field and desk-based work. This split can vary a lot through the seasons, with the bulk of our fieldwork taking place in the spring and summer months. In terms of desk-based tasks, I'll usually be working on reports such as Preliminary Ecological Appraisals (PEAs) and Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIAs). On-site, I might survey protected and priority species and habitats, or supervise works on a development that's already under construction.
Why I love working at Atkins
The team I work alongside has been incredibly supportive since I joined the organization and they are one of the main reasons I genuinely enjoy coming into work each morning. I also love the variety of the work I get to do and the opportunities I have to work on interesting, high-profile projects. It seems like every week, something new and exciting comes through the door.
Delivering what's right for people and the environment
I think people are becoming increasingly aware that the best thing for the planet is often the best thing for people. I like to think our work is to protect and enhance biodiversity on our projects at Atkins and this has a knock-on benefit for people, including aesthetic and recreational benefits provided by green spaces.
The projects I've been working on
We're currently working on some large road schemes which require extensive survey work for a variety of protected species. I'm really looking forward to getting out in the field over the spring and summer and spending this time with the rest of the team. It's also great to work on projects that you know are going to have a real benefit to communities and commuters in the long term.
Making a positive, sustainable where it matters to me
There are numerous threats to biodiversity in the United Kingdom, with the issues of climate change and plastic waste currently under the spotlight. However, in our industry, the most visible threat is development. Every day we see the potential impacts that this can have on wildlife thriving. One of our biggest opportunities is to incorporate biodiversity enhancements and green spaces into development. Doing this has secondary effects, benefitting the health and mental wellbeing of communities who use these developed spaces. There are some fantastic examples out there – I love seeing green roofs in cities, which are great for biodiversity.
Maintaining a good work-life balance – even during the lockdown
Before the pandemic, I liked doing any desk-based work in the office whenever I could but it was always nice to know that I had the freedom to work from home or alter my working hours when needed, so I adjusted to remote working during the lockdown pretty easily. Atkins' flexible culture has reduced some of the pressure that might have come from juggling my personal and professional life. I love having flexibility with my regular working hours too. As I'm at my most productive in the morning, I choose an early start and early finish, which allows me to get the most of the long, light days.
Diversity of thought, expertise and knowledge
One thing that soon struck me when I joined Atkins was just how competent everyone in my team is – it was almost intimidating. Everyone seems to have their own talents and areas of expertise. The diversity of skills plays a large part in the team working so well together. From incredible technical skills to keeping a cool head under pressure or having a natural ability to deal with people, I'm in awe of, at least, one distinct thing about each colleague.
Learning what I'm really capable of at Atkins
Atkins has helped me discover that there are so many different routes that I could go down in this industry and that nothing is closed off to me. There are so many inspirational people working here in various roles, including many highly-accomplished women. That has been so encouraging for me as a young woman starting my career.
To graduates who love the planet and want to make a difference
If you're looking for an exciting and varied career. If you're passionate about protecting and enhancing biodiversity. If you'd love to work with incredibly talented people, on nationally important projects. A role in Atkins' ecology team may be for you.