Julie Dyson is an ecologist, we chat with her about her career in ecology working with big infrastructure projects to mitigate risks to the environment and rehome wildlife.
Julie learned about the importance of the environment from a very young age, as being a farmer’s daughter gave her a unique insight into the relationship between the environment, animals and humans.
Through her work, Julie preserves ecosystems and minimises the risks to wildlife when parts of the environment have to be destroyed to make way for large-scale construction and infrastructure projects. Her career in ecology has been laser-focused on conserving as much of the ecosystem as possible and providing new habitats for wildlife to move to.
“The study of the environment and living things is important because everything which lives in this world has its own place. It feeds something, is a result of something and affects something.”
Julie completed her undergraduate degree in animal science and then specialised with a master’s in environmental consultancy. During her time at university, she picked up some work on bat surveys to get a bit of extra cash, rather than work in a bar like many of her fellow students.
“I just realized that I absolutely love bats, and then it wasn’t until I started doing the surveys that I realised the range of jobs that you could do with them.”
We were lucky enough to receive a quick lesson in bat biology with Timmy the common pipistrelle, who weighs about the same as a 10p piece and fits easily in Julie’s hand. We could see that he was shaking, but Julie assured us that bats vibrate to keep warm and it wasn’t a sign that he was scared of us. At about 4 weeks old Julie explained that he wouldn’t grow much bigger and that in the wild he would begin learning how to fly.
Following her work with bats on the habitat surveys Julie ‘realised that that was what I wanted to get more into. I wanted to help conserve wildlife. So I did the Masters’s and then started to get work in consultancy’
Speaking about the park where we held the interview Julie said
“This would be great, if I was going to release Timmy, I would choose somewhere like this. You’ve got water, so there are lots of insects, you’ve got lots of trees, for them to have a cover.”
“Bats is what I’m more specialised in, but I work with newts, great crested newts, do little bits with barn owls, badgers, water voles, door mice.”
Julie’s work takes her across the country on various projects, which allows her to get involved at a grassroots level in each local community she visits.
“So every place which I work, I always get involved with the local bat group. One of my passions is teaching children about the importance of wildlife. I visit a lot of schools, Brownie clubs and things like that, and I’ll show them a hedgehog or a bat. I’ll teach them why they’re important and what they can do to help them.”
Julie also challenges the preconceptions around bats and encourages the children to take positive steps to look after local wildlife.
“Kids grow up and a lot of the time, they associate bats with scary things like Dracula and Halloween. When, really, bats hibernate at that time of year! I think that kids are our planet’s future. If they learn the importance of ecosystems at a young age, then they’ll take steps to preserve them later. That’s going to have a positive impact on future environments.
To further her work in this area, Julie set up ‘Batmam’ education and visits schools for free, or asks that the school makes a donation to a local bat or wildlife charity.
“I use my own time to go in and show kids, what wildlife is all about and try and tell them about the different jobs, they can do. Because I didn’t know that a career in ecology existed when I was a child, even though it did. But that’s a barrier that I’ve faced. And this is what many ecologists have faced.
A lack of experience and confidence can be a stumbling block for many people who would like to be involved in conservation in their local areas.
“People don’t know the type of experience that they need to get, which is why I think we need more awareness. I want people to be able to buy the correct kit and go out and gain experience in surveys whether that’s bat surveys great crested newt surveys, barn owl surveys, whatever is in their local area.”
“I just wanted to show children what they could do with wildlife, why it’s important. Bats aren’t scary. Hedgehogs are really cute and they’re amazing and they need saving.”
It might seem strange that someone so passionate about wildlife is involved in large-scale construction projects, but Julie believes her work is essential for the future.
“I’m fearful and hopeful for the future. I’m fearful because, well look at the heat waves we’ve had. There’s already damage being done, and it is only going to get worse. But, I’m also hopeful that more companies are going into green schemes and ecology-led projects. There’ll be more protection and licensing and guidelines which can come in to help nature to survive.”