“I really enjoyed working in the field and went on to work at the Great Ape Project in Gabon (Central Africa) with wild gorillas and chimpanzees, which was a brilliant experience.”
Name: Edward Wright
What degree did you do?
I graduated from Zoology with a Modern Language in 2006.
What were the highlights and biggest challenges for you when studying at Manchester?
I came to Manchester because it offered me a really flexible course; Zoology with French. I took this four year course because it enabled me to continue learning a language, which I hoped would make me more employable. I was also able to spend a year in France conducting a scientific project and thus gained valuable work experience. People I meet are always impressed that I was able to combine these two subjects. It really did end up being useful, as I got a job in Gabon (a Francophone country), which led to where I am now. At the time, however, I found the course rather hard work! I seemed to be studying both science and French full-time! My lecture load and number of exams was indeed higher than my fellow zoologists. But now I am happy that I took this option.
How has your career progressed since leaving Manchester?
After graduating from Manchester I wanted to gain some experience of working in the field and apply some of the theoretical knowledge I had learnt. I spent a year as a research field assistant at the Kalahari Meerkat Project in South Africa. I learned a lot here; it is a great behavioural ecology project. I really enjoyed working in the field and went on to work at the Great Ape Project in Gabon (Central Africa) with wild gorillas and chimpanzees, which was a brilliant experience. After a year in Gabon, I decided I would like to work on my own research in the form of a PhD. I currently work on the socio-ecology of mountain gorillas with field work in Uganda. Working in the field in Africa was be a truly rewarding experience. I feel honored to be working with one of our closest relatives.
What is a typical day like for you in the field?
Get up at sunrise and have breakfast with the team; breakfast is beans and posho (maize flour). Head out to the gorillas, which usually takes 1-2 hours of strenuous walking in very hilly terrain! Once we catch up with the gorillas I collect data for my PhD as well as long-term data for the project. Then back to camp, which is another 1-2 hours and a late lunch of beans and rice. I then enter my data into the computer and plan the data collection for the following day. For dinner, it’s beans and posho again, before going to bed nice and early.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Working in the field can be a great experience but it can also be very hard work. But if it is what you want to do, go for it! It is always hard at the beginning, but with persistence it is possible. The more work experience you have the easier it becomes.
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