Queen Mary Alumni

Alumni profile - Jon Stevens

In my job I get to travel across south east England visiting a variety of sites from construction projects that are having their environmental impact assessed, to potential sites for redevelopment where land remediation needs to be put in place. I regularly look into geology and hydrogeology and work closely with our ecologists.

(Freshwater and Marine Ecology MSc, 2019)

Published:
news image

Why did you study MSc Freshwater and Marine Ecology at Queen Mary? Did you have a particular career path in mind?

I have always enjoyed working in the field, whether through volunteering or through travelling and have always had a particular pull to aquatic environments. My project supervisor from Birkbeck, where I did my undergrad in Environmental science also recommended Queen Mary to me as a good place to go in order to gain good field-based skills. I was always inspired by Steve Irwin (The Crocodile Hunter), Les Hiddins (Bush Tucker Man), and Ray Mears and always dreamed of having a job like theirs. My uncle Robin, an anthropologist working with aboriginal groups in Western Australia was/is a huge inspiration to me.

What do you find most fascinating about the aquatic environment?

Since I was a child looking into rockpools with my dad along the West Australian and English coast my fascination quickly became entrenched. My dad’s family live in Perth, Western Australia where a deeper tie to the ocean is the normal way of life. As a child I was fascinated by sharks. I remember as a 5-year-old being at Scarborough beach, WA, when my cousin Brett was circled by the shark spotter helicopter that signified a shark was close to him, it was then that my fascination with sharks started, my aunt Joey (Brett’s mum) turned white as a ghost, he would have only been about 10 at the time.

What did you enjoy most about studying MSc Freshwater and Marine Ecology? 

The field work that we got to do for virtually every module and project work was great fun and very interesting. My passion lies with being out in the field, getting in amongst nature. I am also good at practical skills and problem solving technical issues and this came out during the MSc program.

As a passionate Geo-Environmental Technician, can you touch on your career path since you graduated from Queen Mary and how you have been able to explore your passions through your work?

I studied at Queen Mary as a part time student whilst working a full-time job in civil engineering. It was upon graduating that the company I was working for offered me the opportunity to work within their environmental monitoring department. This enabled me to have a more positive impact on our environment and advise clients of the things they could do to mitigate the effects of noise, dust and vibration. However, after six months or so I felt like I wanted to do more, so I then applied to Delta Simons environmental consultants where I now work as a site technician. I now get to travel across south east England visiting a variety of sites from construction projects that are having their environmental impact assessed, to potential sites for redevelopment where land remediation needs to be put in place. It’s a nice job where we regularly look into geology and hydrogeology and also work closely with our ecologists.

What I most like is that my company's values strongly align with my own, such that everyone is given a fair opportunity to contribute ideas and protecting the environment is at the forefront of what we do!

Huge congratulations on your new role as Site Technician at Delta-Simons Environmental Consultants! What are some of your daily responsibilities and what have you found most exciting about this role so far?

At present I am undertaking various training modules to complement the site-specific training I had already done in my previous role. Of the site-based jobs I am doing at present I would say that ground gas investigations and monitoring for clients such as Amazon take up most of our time, along with ground and surface water sampling of land and river systems. What I most like is that the company's values strongly align with my own, such that everyone is given a fair opportunity to contribute ideas and protecting the environment is at the forefront of what we do! This gives me great peace of mind and reaffirms the reasons for our work. It’s also great to be doing practical science!

Which aspects of your degree are relevant to your current role?

Field work! Getting out into the field during modules is now what I do, and I will soon be getting involved in the reporting of our field findings.

Show people what you love and why, you will often find they are similar and will have a lot to talk about.

What advice would you give to students and recent graduates wanting to pursue a career in environmental consultancy?

It was quite hard envisioning what these consultancies wanted as an ideal candidate, and I think its where a lot of graduates can get a little stuck. However, I will tell you that practical skills are of huge value! Having a driving licence, a CSCS card, health and safety training and some site experiences are hugely desirable. Once you have these you can be put into the field, other skills can be taught in your office time. Also, passion, show people what you love and why, you will often find they are similar and will have a lot to talk about.

How diverse is the industry that you work in and what do you think needs to be done to increase diversity and inclusion in your industry?

There is a good mix of men and woman but not so many ethnic minorities. The company have a wide variety of different roles, many field based and others desk based which will suit different people. I found that attitude is very important when applying to these roles, as skills can be taught. I would say that whoever you are and wherever you’re from, if you have the right attitude, then apply!

What advice would you give to a prospective student considering studying MSc Freshwater and Marine Ecology at Queen Mary?

It is a wonderful course, with great teaching academics and content, however I do not think the course lends itself well to part time study. To truly do well requires you to be fully engaged and to complete the modules in the order they are set out for full timers. Doing it part time breaks your engagement for you to spend time away working, and it can be tough to re-engage with the next modules perhaps 6 weeks or more later. If you are really considering doing the course, give it your all and do it full time.

Finally, what are your future aspirations in terms of your career and in life?

In my career I would love to be a team leader, out in the field. I cannot imagine being stuck behind a desk, that’s ok for a day a week, but out in the environment is where life is happening, so that is where I want to be. I love the natural world, it fascinates me daily, and I would one day love to either go back and work in Australia or New Zealand. New Zealand holds a special interest for me as my current role is essentially geo-science and New Zealand is the geo-scientists dream I think.

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Officer, Nicole Brownfield. If you would like to get in touch with Jon or engage him in your work, please contact Nicole at n.brownfield@qmul.ac.uk.