Experiences of 2020

Roisin - Animal Biology Graduate

At the start of 2020, I would never have expected to be finishing my degree during a national lockdown amidst a global pandemic. As an Animal Biology undergraduate, my final term was focussed on my Honours research project. My study looked at how different aspects of Scottish woodlands might affect bird communities. I spent nearly two months pre-lockdown in the field surveying birds, which was made difficult at times thanks to some extreme conditions (I’m looking at you, Storms Ciara and Dennis!) but I never wagered on Covid-19 being the biggest storm I’d have to weather.

A few weeks into lockdown I had to leave my flat in Edinburgh due to financial issues as a result of the coronavirus. The stress of moving, coupled with the pressure of completing my thesis at home, made it extremely hard to get motivated. The submission, too, was incredibly anticlimactic - with just one click of a button, the university chapter of my life was over. A month on, I feel like I’m stuck in limbo: university behind me but employment seeming a long way off. I wasn’t expecting an easy step into the workforce, with entry-level environmental jobs often difficult to come-by, but the impact of the pandemic has brought much of the jobs market to a standstill. This reality has definitely led to a pessimism over how long it will take me to find work.

However, one thing that has been invaluable to my mental health, and something I will forever be grateful for, is nature. In the times when I escaped for my (socially distanced) daily walk, it was an instant mood-booster just to be amongst trees and wildlife, even if it was just down at the local park. There is something extra-special, too, about immersing yourself in nature during lockdown; the way it silences all the usual background noise of traffic, building sites and people. It’s been so rewarding to spend time appreciating my local area and seeing how nature has thrived in our absence: roadsides growing wild and providing a brilliant resource for pollinators and less noise meaning birds are finding it easier to sing for territories and mates. Nature has given me a space to find peace from worrying about the future and the chaos that the world is in right now. I would encourage everyone to spend some time outside, even if it’s just hearing the birds in your back garden. Through engaging with nature, I hope that in our post-pandemic world we remember the importance of our planet and avoid undoing all the good that has come out of giving it a chance to breathe.