Why did you choose to become an ecologist?
I was interested in science and nature as a child, but I never really considered becoming an ecologist. I decided to study environmental biology at University College Dublin (UCD) because biology was my favourite subject at school, and it was my first step towards becoming a consultant ecologist.
When did you join ROD?
I joined ROD as a graduate field ecologist in 2016. I was nervous about joining a civil engineering company because I had no engineering experience. Luckily, I found like-minded people in the environmental team at ROD who were happy to mentor me from day one.
Can you describe your job?
I spend much of my time working outside, undertaking field surveys and acting as an Ecological Clerk of Works on construction sites.
While I enjoy being outdoors, the work can be challenging at times due to unfavourable weather conditions and difficult terrain. The wildlife I have encountered while travelling the country from Lough Conn in Mayo to the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal makes it all worthwhile however.
What type of projects are you involved in at ROD?
I have worked on some really interesting projects at ROD from cycling infrastructure schemes to large bridge developments to strategic plans.
I enjoy working on projects that meet the needs of society while also providing ecological enhancements. I am particularly interested in finding solutions to promote urban biodiversity.
People derive significant benefit from nature, which is why it so important to ensure that development is sustainable and in harmony with the environment.
Has there been any standout project for you?
I am proud of having undertaken the biodiversity impact assessment of the River Suir Sustainable Transport Bridge in Waterford City, which received planning approval in 2019. Working with my fellow ecologists and engineers at ROD, we developed a bridge design that could be constructed and operated without significant impact on the River Suir, which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). I learned so much on that project!
Do you have you any female mentors at ROD?
I have worked with several fantastic women at ROD, and their support has been invaluable.
Women outnumber men by 7:5 in the environmental team, but I am happy to say that my male colleagues have been just as encouraging as the female members of the team.
What advice would you offer a female ecologist starting out in her career?
It is important to get as much field experience as you can, so I recommend volunteering with environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and specialist interest groups to upskill and broaden your network.
I also recommend joining the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), which is the leading professional membership body representing and supporting ecologists in Ireland.
With the world facing a biodiversity crisis, there has never been a greater need for ecologists, and I am confident that by working alongside engineers, we can provide the solutions.