Olivia Tells her Young Darwin Scholarship Story
‘I’m a Field Studies Council Young Darwin Scholar’ I say with pride.
Currently in its seventh cycle, each year the scheme selects fourteen 16 – 18 year olds to gather at FSC Preston Montford for a five-day residential course. Entitled ‘What would Darwin do today?’ attendees are immersed into a world of all things natural history, from entomology to botany, geology to ornithology.
In 2013, I was 17 and about to write my personal statement to apply to study Medicine at university. Being awarded a YDS (Young Darwin Scholarship) that summer couldn’t have been better timed. I had been an active member of the Ecological Society at High School, but with nothing more than an interest in our environment. My teachers continued to repeat ‘you’ve got to have a passion for your degree subject’. Passion for anything, aside from fantastic A-level grades was certainly lacking. This all changed over the five days.
Something clicked. Maybe it was Bio-Blitzing in and around the centre, digging for earthworms or sweep netting the long grass. I was in awe of the identification skills of the tutors, their knowledge of the local area and their understanding of the impact each organism had on the ecosystem as a whole. The exploration, the fresh air, the use of field guides and searching for different species. It was clear I was more enthusiastic than most about looking up at trees and rummaging under logs.
I went on to study Biology at the University of Exeter and selected broad module topics, adding in physics and chemistry to the mix to ‘maximise career opportunities post-graduation’ i.e. to keep it as interesting and varied as possible.
In my summer holiday between first and second year, I travelled to FSC Dale Fort for the marine science YDS reunion. Here, I met fellow scholars Tom and Calum again, and so a tradition began. With the award offering a considerable discount on an FSC course each year, the three of us explored more and more of the UK and its ecology. 2015 took us to FSC Kindrogan for Scottish Mammals and to FSC Juniper Hall for a behind the scenes tour of the Natural History Museum. 2016 took us to FSC Castle Head with the British Trust for Ornithology. 2017 we travelled back to Kindrogan for Flora and Fauna Identification in the Cairngorms and 2018 we free styled with a self-organised trip to Falmouth!
Upon completing my degree, I’ve tried my hand at marketing with a sustainable tea company and teaching Biology at Rugby School. I’m excited to pursue my original intention for a career in the Environment Sector as in September I begin as a Graduate Sustainability Researcher at Transport Research Laboratory.
I hadn’t considered that one small application would forge such a pathway through my life. The FSC YDS planted and continues to grow my passion for the environment and sustainability. I have met two of my now closest friends, and it has provided a strong link to a community of fellow young people with similar passions and interests. I’m forever grateful that Ian Cheeseborough caught an Emperor Dragonfly and that Cathy Preston was so enthusiastic about just getting outside and tuning in to what’s around us.
I’m sure Calum, Tom and I will continue to attend an annual course with the FSC. Amphibians are next on my list!
Wednesday, August 28, 2019