Jack Merrifield

Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Other Education
Job title: Research Lead & Lecturer in Applied Science and Animal Management
Subject of study: Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Year of graduation: 2012
Type/Level of study: Postgraduate Taught

Current Employer/Organisation Name

Berkshire College of Agriculture

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

Since graduating with a Distinction from my Masters degree at Exeter University, I moved to Namibia and worked as a Researcher for a large carnivore conservation charity where I mainly conducted research on Hyaena and Jackals on the Diamond Coast . I then returned to the UK and started a PhD at Southampton University which involved investigating bat ecology (bats have been a passion of mine since childhood). During my final year I started as an Associate Lecturer in Animal Science at Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) and started working as a freelance ecological consultant for various companies around the UK. Six months later I was the Course Manager at BCA for their undergraduate programmes. Following the pandemic I started a new role at BCA as the Research Lead for all Land Based Studies and continued to teach as a lecturer in Applied Science and Animal Management. Much of my own research is conducted in the Zoo at BCA, but my other study sites include Shamwari Nature Reserve on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. My main teaching and research specialisms include ecology and conservation, animal behaviour and cognition, genetics and statistics. Additionally, I sit on the Strategic Board of Directors for the Zoological Lighting Institute (a wildlife-focused charity based in New York) and on a Programme Review Panel for Kingston University. Like so many education practitioners I have been lucky enough to work with, I also feel very strongly about using research to develop education and so I currently coordinate a Thames Valley Research Group (which is part of the national Learning and Skills Research Network) which aims to use action research strategies to develop best-practice in education-based settings with students as the primary beneficiaries.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy collaborative research and teaching, so the academic pathway has always been a good fit. Seeing students feeling inspired and empowered in this field might sound a bit like a cliché, but it really is the ultimate motivation and the thing I enjoy most about my work.

Please tell us if you were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?

I loved Exeter University and squeezed a lot into my time there, including a research placement working in Southern Africa and a field trip to Kenya. The course and these incredible experiences acted as springboard, propelling me towards a career in animal conservation and I haven’t looked back. I enjoyed a lot of different water sports, rugby, volleyball, climbing and 5-aside football when I was a student and it was all really accessible and inclusive.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I loved the field trip to Kenya and being given licence to organise a research expedition to Namibia. My lecturers, and particularly my supervisor and personal tutor Dr Sarah Hodge, were absolutely fantastic.I loved the field trip to Kenya and being given licence to organise a research expedition to Namibia. My lecturers, and particularly my supervisor and personal tutor Dr Sarah Hodge, were absolutely fantastic.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

Despite being eminent scientists with incredibly busy schedules, the lecturers were always very approachable and I have fond memories of really helpful and meaningful conversations with Sarah Hodge, Brendan Godley, Sasha Dall, Andy Young, Dave Hodgson and the rest of the team there. The administrative support staff are also unsung heroes of the programmes on offer and they were wonderful too from start to finish.

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

Its contributions to world-leading conservation research speaks for itself. Its a Russell Group University and I had also read excellent things about student satisfaction relating to teaching. I am a West Country lad originally, and so an opportunity to work in this environment and be a bit closer to family for a bit was also an influential factor. I also heard the rugby wasn’t half bad in that neck of the woods.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Working in the UK, Italy, and various parts of Africa in different environments has given me a varied skillset, strong communication skills, and personally feeling comfortable with the idea of change. This has catalysed my adaptability and resilience personally and professionally. I think these attributes are important however you manage to develop them and its my opinion that employers respect and prioritise resilience and adaptability in their staff, and that most successful careers (at least those in the sectors I have worked in) are underpinned by an ability to communicate effectively too.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

I have 4 pieces of advice which have served me really well: – Be brave and reach out… speculative, but targeted, emails have taken me around the world and brought me experiences and skillsets I didn’t know existed. Be brave and reach out, you’ll be surprised what comes back. – Be resilient…Spend just five minutes longer on any problem than you would normally be willing to or when others give up. You’ll be surprised how quickly you make progress when you do this and how much others respect this mindset. – Write it down… I suspect the most frequent lie people will ever tell themselves is that: ‘ I will remember that later’. I used to do it a lot and forget everything… write it down! -Respect…every opinion has value, even if it is not immediately obvious. Talk less and listen to everyone, especially people who have experiences you don’t. I had quite a big ego as a younger man and so I struggled with this one the most initially. Once I got it in check, the conversations became much more interesting and incredibly humbling and useful.

What are your plans for the future?

I have just accepted a position as a Faculty Manager and I am excited to continue working in the field of Animal Management and Conservation.


Similar Alumni

Sui Man Anita Leung

Vocational Training Council. Dr Leung Sui Man Anita graduated with an MBA in International Management from Exeter University and was awarded a Doctor of Education in 2008. She worked as an audit member of staff and a graduate mistress in school as the Panel Head of Commercial Studies, assigned to teach Principles of Accounts, Commerce, and Music before joining the Vocational Training Council.

Padraig Cregg

McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan Ltd (MKO). I did my primary degree in Ireland in Zoology. Following that, I completed the Masters in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology in the biosciences department at the University of Exeter in Penryn. I really enjoyed the course. The faculty were very energetic and had a great open-door policy.