Studying Sustainability and Ecology at CAT: A conversation with Mike Thomas

Studying Sustainability and Ecology at CAT: A conversation with Mike Thomas


Home » Studying Sustainability and Ecology at CAT: A conversation with Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas began his MSc in Sustainability and Ecology at CAT in September 2019, as a student on the very first intake of the course. Alis Rees, Graduate School Marketing Officer caught up with Mike one year into the course.

The course which focuses on land use, biodiversity (species) needs for conservation and ecosystem service provision and the global and local scale of ecological sustainability appealed to Mike after he developed an interest in conservation through his experiences as an active community woodland volunteer in North Wales.

Read on to find out more about his volunteering projects and why he chose to study on one of CAT’s postgraduate courses and gain the skills and knowledge to develop positive solutions to the climate and biodiversity emergency.

What was your background before CAT?

I spent 10 years as a careers adviser in schools and a further ten working in social care, the last three of these years as an advocate for people with dementia. I had also done my first degree over 25 years ago in social theory and politics type studies and whilst continuing to work I have been active as a committee member and volunteer in a community woodland near to me.

So what made you choose to study at CAT?

I was involved in tree-planting, creating a wildflower meadow and establishing a pond as part of my volunteering experiences with my community woodland and I also ran a children’s environmental education group – the ‘Woodland Wonderers’ – with a friend which made me interested in ecology as a whole. I decided to study at CAT to deepen my understanding and knowledge.

For me, it’s about gaining a deeper understanding of how ecosystems function to inform my conservation work. The more we know the more chance we can develop sustainable ways of doing things in conservation work and across the board.

What impact has your studies at CAT had so far?

I know loads more than I did before I started on the course. This has also translated across to the conservation work I’m currently involved in. It feels good to have an understanding of the theory as well as the practice of conservation and ecological restoration.

Tell us a bit more about the conservation work you’re involved with outside of studying at CAT.

I’m currently involved with a new tree nursery set up by North Wales Wildlife Trust that is currently growing around 6000 trees of various native UK species. The idea is to get these planted throughout North Wales in the coming months. I’ve done plenty of tree planting in the past, but never been involved in growing the trees. It’s a new skill and one which I’m enjoying.

I’m also part of the team of people who look after the Countess of Chester Park in Chester, a community space in which we’re trying to enhance the environment and provide access to nature for local people. Our exciting new initiative – a proposed wetland.

That all sounds great! What are the best things about what you’re doing now?

I’m having the time of my life, to be honest. I’m studying something I’m really interested in plus getting hands-on with conservation work which I enjoy. I look forward to further studying and researching woodland ecology, community woodlands and their contribution to carbon storage and improving tree growing and planting methods.

What are your plans for the future?

Well firstly to pass the Masters – that would be the priority! I also want to carry on with my current conservation work and look for opportunities to expand into new projects. I’m hoping the new UK Government Environmental Land Management Scheme will provide plenty of options – and funding – for broad-scale tree planting across the UK. We need to get trees in the ground in very large numbers, and soon.

We agree. And finally, if you had to sum up your experience of studying at CAT, what would you say?

CAT provides a great opportunity to learn vital skills for the future while giving you the chance to meet a bunch of committed people also working towards doing things in new and sustainable ways. It’s empowering … and it’s also a lot of fun.

Interested in studying at CAT?

If you’d like to find out more about studying on our MSc Sustainability and Ecology or on one of our other postgraduate programmes in September 2021 then join us on our next Virtual Open Day or get in touch with Alis for more information.

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