Dr Clare Benton
Current Employer/Organisation Name
Animal and Plant Health Agency
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
Following my BSc I took a gap year where I worked as a marine wildlife guide in the Inner Hebrides and a research assistant for a primatologist in Suriname, South America. I then returned to the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus) and completed an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity, carrying out my research project with Birdlife Malta. Following graduation I then applied for a 10 month Field Ecologist position within the Central Science Laboratory (now Animal and Plant Health Agency) within the UK Civil Service. This then turned into a permanent position. My employer supported me through a part-time PhD in wildlife disease; this was in partnership with the University of Exeter which I completed in 2017. I am now a Senior Wildlife Biologist, leading research projects on wildlife disease and supporting the UK government in the rollout of badger vaccination as a tool in the fight against bovine TB.
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I was unsure what avenue to take after completing my MSc and was considering carrying on immediately to PhD study. I was very fortunate in that the short term position that I took has led me into a career which I now greatly enjoy. I very much enjoy the variety of work that I am involved in and that I get to continue my interest and involvement in research whilst working within a real world wildlife management context.
Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?
In my first year I lived in Moberley Hall on the Duryard campus. In my third year a small number from my course transferred to the newly built Cornwall Campus; it was here that I returned for my MSc
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
My third year was my favourite year of study; we benefited from being a very small year group with inspiring lecturers and plenty of opportunity to hone our skills in scientific presentation, critical thinking and working collaboration. The biggest highlight was probably our trip to Kenya which had plenty of adventures and amazing wildlife.
What did you enjoy most about studying here?
In both Exeter and Cornwall I loved the locations and the campus style of the sites. Access to the coast was a major benefit and I made some lifelong friends.
Why did you choose to study at Exeter?
Location and recommendations from current students.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
Field experience is a very important starting point. Even though I no longer work predominantly in the field, that experience is still something that I value and helps me as a project manager of field based projects. Being able to present to a range of audiences is something that I do regularly and the experience I had at Exeter where we regularly presented to each other stood me in good stead as I started out. I regularly use skills such as statistical analysis and GIS methods in my job.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
Don’t under-estimate where your first job can lead you!