It has been over six years since I was accepted into The University of Manchester to study for a BSc in Zoology with a modern language, and I couldn’t be more jealous of those students just starting out in their very first semester of their Zoology course.
In all honesty, first year was a complete whirlwind and I had very little direction, and no idea about what I wanted from my degree. Throughout the year, juggling Zoology and my modern language lectures (French) proved to be too difficult for me, and I was unfortunately transferred off the four year modern language course onto the Zoology-only course. At the time I was devastated as I had lost my placement year abroad and now only had two years left at university; however without the extra French modules and classes, I was given a much wider choice of Zoology modules and this enabled me to take control of my degree and focus on the areas that I found most interesting.
I began to tailor most of my module choices around my fascination with animal behaviour. If a module was about the evolution of behaviour, the neural mechanisms behind behaviours, or the role of hormones in behaviour, you can trust that I chose it.
I can still remember one lecturer asking all of us, ‘why do we study animal behaviour?’ All sorts of clever suggestions were offered up, but after a while he gave us the answer that I’m sure most of us were secretly thinking: ‘because animals do weird things, and we find them really funny.’ I couldn’t have agreed more with this statement, and to me lectures could never be boring when we were watching video clips of birds doing funny courtship displays and hearing anecdotes about researchers being attacked by various animals.
One of my favourite and fondest memories of my course was definitely the second year field course. I was given a place on the two-week field course to the south of France. Yes, I put the famous Ecuador trip as my first choice and even cried when I found out that I was going to France instead. However, the France field course was mainly focused on animal behaviour, which suited me perfectly, and I spent a surreal but absolutely amazing two weeks drinking wine with my friends and making daily trips up a mountain to poke a thermometer into wood ants’ nests (ants are able to thermoregulate their nests to maintain the perfect temperature- I found this to be true. I also found that they hate having their nests poked and are extremely vicious).
Thinking back over my degree and the odd set back that I encountered, I can see how different opportunities were opened up for me at every turn, even when things seemed to be going wrong.
I have also realised that there isn’t anywhere a Zoology degree can’t take you. Since graduating I have completed an MPhil in Animal Biology and travelled to Namibia to work with orphaned baboons and large carnivores. I have also spent a fantastic nine months working as an intern at Chester Zoo where I helped measure hormones in the dung samples of various endangered species to see whether they were pregnant, as well as collecting data on the physiological and behavioural effects of contraception products on zoo animals.
I believe that these all of these amazing experiences that I have had so far would not have been possible without my BSc in Zoology. In the future I hope to study for a PhD in animal behaviour/ animal welfare science, but for now I am back in Manchester where it all started, working for the university as a research technician, and I know that my degree could still take me anywhere.