Where are they now?
Read about the varied careers of our environmental sciences graduates.
Niamh McDermott: Environmental Consultant
I graduated in 2015 and then started work as an Environmental Scientist in the private sector with SpillAssist Ltd., based in Armagh. The company specialises in the remediation of contaminated land, particularly contamination by fuel oils. The work is varied and involves lots of environmental sampling. I really like that I get to be outside on investigation as well as in the office. I’m also really pleased to be working for a consultancy in the private sector so soon after graduating and this is the direction I’d like to pursue for my future career.
Edward Lockhart: PhD research student
I graduated in 2014, having completed an industrial placement with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute. During my degree I undertook several marine geophysics and marine science modules which formed the foundation for my passion for marine geophysics. My interest in the use of marine geophysics in palaeo-environmental reconstructions (what I based my dissertation on) led me to pursue an MSc in Applied Marine Geoscience at Bangor University.
I am now doing a PhD at Bangor using geophysical data and sediment cores to reconstruct palaeo-glacial environments, specifically the extension of the last British-Irish Ice Sheet into the Celtic Sea. This will improve our understanding of how past ice sheets behaved due to changing climate and sea level, allowing us to apply this knowledge to current ice sheets to predict changes in their ice mass due to similar environmental stresses.
Chris Finlay: Environmental Intern
After graduating, I secured a position to work for Fermanagh District Council as an Environmental Science Intern. The work is challenging and gets me out and about all over Fermanagh, which is a beautiful place. It’s a good chance for me to learn how science is applied in industry and has given me six months of strong work experience and an opportunity to work on an independent project which I can use on future job applications.
Lynda Byrne: Mapping and Charting Officer
I graduated in 2013. During my time at the University I successfully applied for a place on the Marine Institute’s summer bursary program and completed a work experience year. During my placement I gained valuable professional experience using GIS within conservation. This was augmented during my final semester when I took part in the iMap project where I developed my presentation and project management skills. I was employed as a Mapping and Charting officer with Land and Property Services before starting as a GIS Consultant with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Gail McAleese: Offshore Marine Geophysicist
I graduated in 2011 during which I developed a keen interest in seafloor mapping and marine geology after taking modules in these areas. Subsequently I completed an MSc in Applied Marine Geosciences at Bangor University. I was lucky to be a recipient of the Society for Underwater Technology Educational Support Fund (ESF) at Ulster and Bangor, which was a big financial help. My undergraduate and postgraduate degree paths led me to make the natural progression into the offshore industry, and I’m currently employed by Gardline Geosurvey Ltd as an Offshore Marine Geophysicist, working on site investigation projects for the oil and gas and offshore renewable energy industries.
Colin Armstrong: Government Freshwater Scientist
I graduated in 2003 and I’m currently employed as a Principal Scientific Officer in the Department of Environment’s Marine Division. In this role I manage the Conservation and Reporting team which has responsibility for marine nature conservation and archaeology. I had previously worked for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) where I spent 8 years as an ecologist working on the lake monitoring programme and a year in the Strategy Group where I had the opportunity to be involved with policy development. During my degree I completed a year long placement with NIEA and this experience, together with the skills that were taught as part of the Environmental Science programme, have proved to be very valuable in preparing me for the various roles I have had within the Department of Environment and NIEA.
Deborah Ballantine: University Lecturer
I graduated from Ulster in 2002 and continued my studies at the University of Exeter, with a PhD in Physical Geography, researching soil erosion and pollutant transport in river catchments. Following this, and after working with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, I moved to New Zealand as a water quality researcher with Ag-Research and NIWA. In 2013, I relocated again to an academic post at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province in China where I am Acting Head of the Department of Environmental Science. I’m still thankful to the University of Ulster lecturers who brought my subject to life, and who inspired me to continue with my studies and to make my career in environmental science.
Richard McFaul: Water Quality Inspector
I graduated in 2001, after completing a 12-month industrial placement with the Fisheries Conservancy Board for Northern Ireland. I pursued my interest in water science and completed a PhD at Ulster University on the ecology of Lough Beg before spending a year as a post-doctoral researcher. In 2006 I worked as an environmental consultant in renewal energy and since 2007 I have worked as a Water Quality Inspector for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. I am primarily involved with legislation enforcement, specifically in relation to water pollution from sources such as oil spills, farms and industrial premises. This involves investigating reported pollution incidents, determining and stopping the source and, where necessary, proceeding to court action. My lifelong interest in the natural environment has moved my career towards environmental protection and the education I received at Ulster served as a good basis for this work.
Alastair Fenn: Environmental Officer
I graduated in 2009 and went straight into employment taking up a position with the Deveron, Bogie & Isla River Charitable Trust in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, as their Biosecurity and Fisheries Development Officer. During the next 3 years I gained valuable skills and was directly responsible for deploying the UK’s first catchment-wide biosecurity project. In October 2012 I took up a position with the Lough Neagh Partnership as Environmental Officer for Lough Neagh and continue to develop and build on skills and knowledge that began at Ulster University.
Pete Rodgers: Hydrogeologist
I graduated in 2004 before completing a Masters in Research focusing on palaeolimnology. After leaving University I began a career as a hydrogeologist at engineering consultancy in Belfast; White, Young and Green. I moved to Melbourne in 2011 and now project manage the assessment and remediation of large-scale contaminated sites with large international engineering consultancy Golder Associates.
In 2013 I became the Vice-President of the Victorian chapter of the Australian Contaminated Land Consultants Association. I really enjoy the diversity of work and mix of people I get to interact with. No two projects are ever the same and I get to visit and work in some amazing locations.
Dellwyn Kane: Ecologist
I graduated in 2003 continuing in the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences working as a Research Assistant on a lake ecology project and palaeolimnology project. In 2004 I began my doctoral research into freshwater pollution pathways, whilst working as a teaching assistant in the School. In 2007 and 2008 I briefly worked with the NIEA as a Water Quality Officer, with White Young Green as an Ecological Consultant and also as a private consultant. Following this I took up a position as a Countryside Management Advisor for DARD. In June 2013 I launched my own Ecological Consultancy, Kane Ecology, to provide ecological surveying and assessment services for the planning and conservation sectors.
Mike McLaughlin: Soil Scientist
I graduated in 1977 and then went on to do a M.Agr.Sc. in Soil Science at the University of Reading. I then worked in South Africa at the Soil and Irrigation Research Institute in Pretoria for 3 years as a soil chemist before starting a PhD at The University of Adelaide in Australia in 1983, graduating in 1986. After a postdoctoral fellowship with CSIRO Plant Industry Division in Canberra for 3 years, I moved to Melbourne to work in the fertilizer industry for the Australian Phosphate Corporation until 1991. I then moved back to Adelaide and commenced with CSIRO Division of Soils as a Research Scientist working on soil and environmental chemistry. I have been with CSIRO since and am now a CSIRO Fellow. I joined the University of Adelaide in 2004 as a Professor in the School of Agriculture Food and Wine and now lead the Mosaic-sponsored University of Adelaide Fertiliser Technology Research Centre. My undergraduate training at Ulster University stimulated my interest in soils, agriculture and environmental issues, and encouraged me to gain further qualifications in these areas where I have now specialised.
Thomas Smyth: Numerical Modeller
I graduated from Ulster in 2009. After completing my undergraduate dissertation on simulating nearshore waves to predict beach slope, I became interested in continuing my studies and was awarded a PhD scholarship to study airflow and sediment transport dynamics in coastal dune blowouts. Following the completion of my PhD in 2012, I moved to Australia to work as a postdoctoral research fellow at Flinders University. The combination of field, lab and computation skills I developed at Ulster has enabled me to collaborate with a range of scientists investigating fluid dynamics in terrestrial, marine and Martian environments. The research involved in both my PhD and current role have also provided me the opportunities to travel throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia to perform fieldwork and attend conferences.