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Morgan Hughes, Senior Ecologist, Atkins


Senior Ecologist

Business area: Ecology
Job title: Senior Ecologist
Years at Atkins: 2

What inspired you to become an ecologist?

I’m one of those people who is lucky enough to do for a living what, as a child, I wanted to be when I grew up. From a young age, I wanted to ‘do conservation’. I grew up in South Florida, and it’s kind of hard to miss the importance of wildlife when you have sandhill cranes in the garden and rattlesnakes in the air conditioner. We had a roost of over 400 bats in our apartment block, and I used to sit outside at night counting them. So, ecology was always going to happen for me. (Okay, originally, I wanted to be a pirate so I could have swords and a boat and a parrot, but after that it was always ecology!). I genuinely thought, though, that it was beyond my abilities – that going to university would be prohibitively expensive (which in the USA it would have been). But I came back to the UK and did my BSc in Physical Geography, followed by an MSc in Biological Recording, and began my career working for the RSPB and Wildlife Trust. Making the move to consultancy has allowed me to specialise in my areas of taxonomic interest: Bats and Invertebrates, and working at Atkins challenges me, keeps me on my toes and constantly pushes me ever so slightly out of my comfort zone.

Why do you choose to stay at Atkins?

To be honest, there are two main reasons I stay at Atkins. The first is my team-mates. The Birmingham ecology team are just amazing. Everyone is very supportive of each other, and it genuinely feels like an extended family. We even go on holiday together! It’s a privilege working with such knowledgeable, capable and passionate naturalists. I gain new knowledge from them every day, and hope that I give back even a fraction of what I learn.

The second reason is the integrity of Atkins: I love the feeling that we are known for doing a job well; I love that we have such high standards for our fieldwork and our reporting; and I feel very supported by the senior staff in everything I do. It feels like the company wants us all to succeed, to grow and to flourish. I really value the training and CPD ethic that is so strong in the company, and the fact that Atkins are always innovating. I feel motivated, and never dread coming to work in the mornings!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Mainly, I’d say it is that no two days are the same. Ecology varies a lot on a seasonal basis anyway, so I may spend my spring standing in ponds counting newts, and my summers split between standing under motorway bridges looking for bats and wandering around meadows looking for orchids. Autumn can be badger surveys, and winter means hibernation surveys. And through it all, I get the continuity of being involved from planning stage through to reporting. I get autonomy of managing my own projects, plus the awesome sense of teamwork working with others.

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