Amy Collier, Applied Environmental Science with Physical Geography
Year studied Applied Environmental Science with Physical Geography:
2011-2014 Graduated with a First BSc
Awarded the Outstanding Student Achievement Award 2013/14 for Environmental Science
Current employment and type of business:
Camps Environmental Services Ltd., Hampshire, landscape and environmental consultancy with speciality in highways contracts
Kier Highways, Northamptonshire, highways infrastructure management working on behalf of Highways England: asset design, maintenance and construction
Environmental Consultant (at CES), and Environmental Advisor (at Kier)
What are the different steps you took after graduating from Keele in terms of travel, further study and jobs?
Many friends packed up and headed home following our final exams and lectures. However, I stayed on for the summer in Newcastle and threw myself into increasing my hours volunteering. I’d been a conservation volunteer for local country parks throughout my three years at Keele, working with both Groundwork and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. With the free time, I was volunteering 4 days a week across Staffordshire and completed a qualification in Practical Environmental Conservation: building fences, steps, paths, chopping trees and everything else in between! The hours I collated over three years at Keele amounted to a Platinum Award in Volunteering from Keele SU (250+ hours).
I began a role at University of Bristol later that summer (2014), working as a Sustainability Project Assistant on an NUS-funded project within the Students’ Union. The project aimed to engage students with everything from greening their curriculum to supporting them to create their own sustainability initiatives. We successfully ran various schemes, including a large end-of-year reuse and recycling project – the Bristol Big Give – seeking to donate the unwanted items left by students from both halls of residence and private accommodation. In the first year, 88 tonnes of waste were saved from being landfilled, worth around £180,000 to charity. Amongst this, we funded student-led projects such as Balloon Bikes, a term-based rent-a-bike scheme.
Less than a fortnight after leaving Bristol, I moved to Norwich and started my Masters in Environmental Assessment and Management at University of East Anglia (2015). I was lucky enough to be chosen for a Postgraduate Scholarship in Environmental Science. Lots of my course focussed on environmental and ecological impact assessment, strategic-level assessments, and policy/legislation. It felt very different to being an undergraduate – and I had such fond memories of Keele that were irreplaceable – but after a very exhausting and trying year, I graduated with a Distinction.
After UEA, I finally had a little relaxation post-University with a months’ break to Indonesia – in tow with 3 friends from Keele - and visited a Keele friend in Malaysia who I lived with in Holly Cross. I hadn’t seen her since she graduated (2013) and it was so wonderful – you truly meet friends for life in the bubble!
Towards the early winter, I moved to Wiltshire and landed my current role as an Environmental Consultant with a growing consultancy based near Southampton. I was seconded to Kier Highways in April and work as an Environmental Advisor there.
How did you get your current position and what does your current position involve?
I applied for various consultancy roles, and graduate schemes with large multi-national companies, through searches of environmental-field websites. I got the role with CES, and turned down interviews with the global corporations – I wanted to be with a new and growing company, and it gave me more flexibility to develop professionally into areas of interest than be siloed to one work stream.
At CES, we typically handle highways-related schemes, such as landscape improvement projects on verges, but also have projects with local councils and other construction firms. My first project was to undertake a feasibility study to develop a multi-million pound green overbridge on our motorways to reduce the impacts of habitat severance. The concept for identifying and determining suitability of potential bridge installation sites was my own design - as the first ranked study of its kind in the UK, my blueprint will hopefully be followed by further studies commissioned by other organisations.
In April, I was seconded as Environmental Advisor to Kier Highways, working on behalf of Highways England to manage the trunk road network across England. Currently the highways schemes I work on price up during an average week anywhere from £3,000 to £300,000 or more – from simple renewals schemes to SMART motorway upgrades and new roads - it’s great to be part of such pivotal infrastructure proposals from design to completion. I’m out on site in high-visibility by the roadside most days for various surveys – in all weathers! I work closely with ecologists, drainage experts, structural teams and designers, engineers and other contractors – there’s a lot of work involved with keeping our wheels moving across the country!
What did you learn on the Environmental course which helped you get the job, or helps with your role now?
The course was multifaceted and included a broad range of elements – water and soil science, ecology, air pollution, policy and legislation, survey techniques and more – all delivered through various means including practical fieldwork and lab-based experience, tutorials, seminars and lectures. Students had the choice to decide if they preferred a science-based route, or a more policy and human impacts-related path – or a combination!
The course was engaging, and the information all useful – I still draw upon the knowledge I gained and skills I was taught several years later. I currently have a project at work delivering water quality improvement schemes for highways drainage assets, and I have my old water science notes out to brush up my knowledge of heavy metals and organic pollutants and appropriate testing techniques. I never had a lecture where I exited and felt I had learned nothing – no time was ever wasted.
What would you like a prospective student to know about studying our environmental courses at Keele?
The incredible student satisfaction ratings and course rankings for various degrees at Keele, not to mention for the School of Geography, Geology and Environment, are testament to the quality of the institution and the staff there. Staff have an open door for any problems, and you are supported by the infrastructure of the School and the Keele community from your first day to your graduation day. You are treated as an individual – not a student number or a face in a lecture theatre – and that quality is lost on some competitor institutions. There is a reason for the sentimentality and fondness shown by all former students: it really is one of a kind.
Of everything you will gain through studying at Keele, there are three major things for life you receive: Skills, friends, and a place to call home – and all three are applicable no matter where in the world you go next.