Graduating with a First Class Degree in Zoology

So, yesterday I found out that on 19th July 2018 I will be graduating with a First Class Bachelor of Science Degree in Zoology. After three years of stressful days and hard work, I was over the moon to discover that the effort that I had invested in my studies had paid off. Excitingly, this means that I have met the criteria required in order to secure my place on a Masters course in Primate Behaviour and Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University in September.

The past three years have passed by in a whirlwind. I met some incredible people, a few of which I hope to be lifelong friends with. I also got to travel to take part in multiple field course in Yorkshire, Uganda, and France. These courses allowed me to gain invaluable experience of conducting research in a field setting, and massively improved my confidence in this area. Without these amazing opportunities, there is no way that I would have been able to secure a place on a Masters course, or a volunteer position as a research assistant collecting data on the social behaviour of chimpanzees.

One thing that I feel that I absolutely must mention is the level of support that I received from the staff. The head of school was my academic advisor throughout my studies, and he was always helpful and inspiring. When I was struggling with my mental health, he was understanding and would aid me in whatever way he could, whether it was setting up an informal meeting, or getting in touch with other lecturers to make them aware of the situation. My honours project supervisor was also an inspiration; she was always considerate, and would do her utmost to ensure my success. Thanks to her, I was able to attain a first in my dissertation, and as a result, a first overall in my degree.

I am excited to embark upon a new chapter in my life, and cannot wait to begin specialising in primatology. The more I think about my future, the more passionate I become about achieving my dreams, and achieving a first class degree shows that I am capable of doing so.

Aspiring Primatologist

As a child, I was fascinated with all living things. However, nothing captured my interest more than our closest evolutionary relatives – primates. I would often find myself thinking how amazing it would be to see them in the wild, to watch them for hours, to learn about and from them. I would constantly dream about them and wish with all my might that I could just see one in nature, not locked away in a cage on display.

At the time, I thought that science was a thing for boys. All the nature programmes I devoted hours of my life to watching were either narrated or presented by men – David Attenborough, Steve Irwin, Chris Packham, Steve Backshall, Gordon Buchanan, and countless others I can’t name. It wasn’t until I could read that I realised that women could be scientists too – Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas, even Rosalind Franklin and Marie Curie. The older I became, the more I studied and read, the more I realised that if I so desired, I too could become a scientist; I too could study animals the way that my childhood heroes had.

Despite my immeasurable desire to see a primate in its natural habitat, I spent 22 years of my life confined to Britain, only seeing the creatures that enamoured me so in captivity or on film. When, during my studies as a Zoology student at University of Liverpool, I was offered the opportunity to travel to Uganda as part of a Tropical Field Course module, I saved what little money I had and boarded a plane for the very first time to Africa – the home continent of primates. The first wild non-human primate I set eyes on was a vervet monkey, and I was completely mystified. Seeing such an animal able to move as freely as myself, not restricted by bars, was awe-inspiring. Soon after, I spotted black-and-white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, and eventually our closest relatives – chimpanzees. When I first set my eyes on a wild chimpanzee my glasses fogged up, tears stung my eyes and I realised I had forgotten to breathe. Completely mesmerised, I neglected to take photographs, not wanting to miss a second of their visible activity. Only after I had seen them on a couple more excursions into the Kibale National Park rainforest did I try to capture them on camera. It was at this point that I decided that no matter what obstacles presented themself, I was going to study primate behaviour.

This year I will finish my third and final year at University of Liverpool, after which I intend to study a MSc in Primate Behaviour and Conservation at Liverpool John Moores University. I am so excited to start this new chapter in my life, studying under world leading experts in the field and learning how to pave my own way into this incredibly competitive area of research. I’m ready to work hard and learn some amazing things.

The featured image for this post is a red colobus monkey that I photographed on 11/04/2017 in Kibale National Park, Uganda.