Birds, anxiety and me: How I find peace in nature as an ornithologist

Dan is an ornithologist. She’s 23 and from Llanelli.

A lifelong sufferer of anxiety, Dan turns to nature to calm her mind, whilst also protecting the birds and wetlands she loves.

Dan’s journey

Ornithology,” Dan explains, “is the study of birds and how we can conserve the species by looking at their trends and their habitats.”

Dan first got into ornithology when she was just four years old. She wanted to look after the birds that visited her garden, so her dad used to help her build nest boxes and bird feeders for them.

I really wanted the birds to feel safe and that they had a place to feel refuge

Now, Dan’s a fully-fledged ornithologist. Her day-to-day work gets her out in nature, which helps her to manage the anxiety she's lived with since childhood.

Why is ornithology important?

Dan’s work involves monitoring wildfowl, waders and sea birds around the South Wales coast and sometimes further afield.

Through observing the numbers and behaviour of different species of birds in the areas, Dan helps to assess the overall health of the colonies or locations.

Healthy wetlands are important because they play a major role in protection against environmental issues like flooding, draught and pollution. They are also home to a huge variety of wildlife.

Birds play a vital role in keeping the wetlands thriving: “We get a sense of what’s going on in the wetlands based off the birds’ activity,” Dan explains. Birds distribute seeds, are part of the food chain, and their migratory patterns reveal changes in climate.

What to expect if you want to become an ornithologist

  • Salary: variable ranging from £18,000 to £35,000 per year

  • Working hours: variable and may include weekends, evenings and early starts

What qualifications do you need to be an ornithologist?

Typical entry requirements: Many ornithologists have a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a subject like Biology, Ecology, Environmental science or Zoology. To access these courses you’ll usually need between one and three A-levels.

Having some relevant experience is important, so you could look into volunteering opportunities. The British Ornithologists’ Union has more useful information and resources about becoming an ornithologist.

This information is a guide (source: National Careers Service)

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