I’ve started an MRes in Ecosystem and Environmental Change at Imperial College London about 1.5 weeks ago now, and along with about 100 other masters students doing various other ecology-related courses, am based at Silwood Park, Ascot. It’s about an hour on the train from London Clapham Junction to Sunningdale, and then another 30 mins walk/10 mins cycle from the station to Silwood Park. I.e. it’s not the most convenient place on earth. There aren’t really shops around for emergency buys, nor clubs if you want a night out (if that’s your kind of thing). Though we are technically Imperial students, we’re so distant from the main campus at South Kensington that we’re more or less on our own really.
It sounds perhaps slightly grim, especially if you’re into city life, but apart from the slight inconvenience regarding shops, and the fact that we can’t join clubs and societies on the main campus (and so I can’t really try out random things), I’m really liking Silwood Park. There’s a chicken yard (you can join the chicken club!), an apple orchard, allotments, a pretty grim-looking lake (with just one mallard and one grey heron when we walked by earlier today), surrounded by woodlands and meadows. The campus itself is really brilliant; I enjoyed crashing the bird diversity/abundance point count this morning, and we had a bit of pond dipping yesterday where I caught/saw newts and dragonfly nymphs for the first time (:
Lectures are with a mix of courses, and last week was a general Ecology Evolution and Conservation introductory course. This week though, the 7 of us in my course had our own set of Global Change lectures (while some other courses get to do fieldwork *jealous much*), and as much as I dislike listening how we’re screwing up the world in every area (that’s why I dropped Responses to Global Change in Cambridge and did Mammalian evolution and faunal history instead), I did learn some really interesting things.
For example, if we want to stabilise atmospheric composition of carbon, we have to cut down to zero emissions. Not just reduction of 20% or 50% from 2010 levels, or going back down to 1950s level of emission, we have to completely cut it out. Which is practically and realistically impossible.
I also realised, perhaps somewhat belatedly, that contrary to popular belief that ecology is all about going outfield with nets/transect tapes/quadrats and counting/identifying plants and animals, it’s actually a LOT of math and physics. Equations, modelling, doing gut analyses and constructing giant food webs.
But somewhat terrifying math aside (I’ll confess it’s not one of my strengths), it’s been rather chill and enjoyable. It’s awesome being able to discuss morality in conservation in the bar, and have chickens to feed in the morning.