Monica Pichler, a DTP student at the University of East Anglia, was hoping to get a greater understanding of active environmental management systems, from data analysis to practical applications. After meeting with The Broads Authority at the PIPS Employer Forum Monica arranged to undertake her placement with them.
Monica started her placement in the summer of her first year, which she found to be excellent timing. “I had already gained some preliminary data within my 1st year of the PhD so the placement didn’t feel like an interruption of my workflow. It was more like a welcome change which provided me with new focus and energy to proceed with my major lab experiments”, reflects Monica.
The main objective of the placement was to review and analyse water level data recorded at numerous locations across the Broads National Park and to develop a new approach to establish tidal metrics and to look at factors like algal bloom concentrations, salination and pH. The responsibilities included data acquisition and collation, development of a software in R to analyse water level data and the gathering of new data through deployment of a water level logger. Monica developed a programme and protocol that can now be used by the operations team to analyse future samples. At the end of the 3 months she also gave a presentation on her work to the wider organisation and was encouraged by the positive nature of their responses.
Monica gained technical skills related to data gathering as well as programming skills, which will be valuable as she continues with her PhD. “I particularly enjoyed carrying out environmental measurement and sampling in the Broads National Park and working with data which assists with environmental decision making”, says Monica. The placement also gave her an insight into the Broads Authority’s wildlife conservation efforts and waterway management.
Monica’s self-confidence and personal effectiveness both improved a great deal as she found that she always felt strongly valued and was able to work independently and come up with her own ideas. One of the main benefits Monica gained from her time was working in a close team structure where everyone’s ideas and work is valued and respected. She found weekly meetings with her supervisor at The Broads Authority offered positive motivation to ensure progress with her work on much shorter timescales.
Monica now feels more confident interacting with people from various backgrounds and her problem solving and time management have also improved, as well as team-working and communication skills. Having to be out of the office each day at 4pm made her focused and more efficient during work hours, and she liked being able to leave work behind.
Monica feels that she is now more likely to look for a job beyond academia after finishing her PhD. Monica feels the PIPS experience has given her increased confidence in the transferability of her skill set to other employment settings beyond the PhD.
Overall, Monica felt her placement was a very positive experience and found it beneficial for both her training and skills development and her research project. She advises future PIPS students to pick a project you are enthusiastic about and something you usually don’t get the chance to do.