Environmental, or ecological, consultants work for governmental or commercial clients on a variety of environmental issues. They look at land, air and water contamination, the impact of development or business activities on the environment, waste management, environmental management and the detection and management of protected species.
The tasks and duties of an ecological consultant will vary from day to day, but much of the work is based around finding out whether the water, land or air in a particular area is polluted, or whether certain protected animal species live there. They might also look at trees and other plants in an area to see if they are suffering from diseases which need prompt attention. Ash dieback is in the news a lot at the moment, and teams of environmental consultants will be looking for signs of this problem, as well as informing the media and public about how to prevent its spread.
An ecological consultant will deal with legislative and licencing issues for its clients, and explain to them how current laws affect their plans.
They will also do field surveys to collect data on levels of pollution in an area that’s earmarked for development. The consultants will make detailed assessments of the data collected, usually using specialised software packages to make sure any contaminants are within guidelines.
Report writing is an important duty, with the consultants having to write detailed scientific reports that can be read and understood by lay-people or people from other disciplines. These reports can also be about sites that developers or companies are planning to buy. These reports can detail what the land has been used for previously, and how this might affect future activities.
One of the more publicised aspects of an ecological consultant’s job is a protected species survey. We’ve all heard of building work being delayed because a rare animal – that we’ve usually never heard of before – is living on the site. Consultancies like Middlemarch Environmental perform the surveys that find these animals, and then decide what to do with them.
Middlemarch has more than 30 fully qualified ecologists in its offices throughout the UK, and they do thousands of protected species surveys each year. The company can help developers and builders to get the necessary licences to carry out their plans, either by proving that the site isn’t inhabited by rare animals like the great crested newt, or bats, or water voles, for example, or by moving the animals to a suitable habitat elsewhere.
If you think you might need a protected species survey, visit middlemarch-environmental.com to see its survey calendar. Certain animals need to be surveyed at different times of the year (or often at different times of day, in the case of bats!), so a glance at the calendar will tell you when to contact the company. Great crested newts need to be surveyed between mid-March and mid-June, while badgers can be looked at all year round. It’s important to ask for a survey in plenty of time, so work isn’t delayed.