Day in the life: Rachel Bicker, biodiversity consultant

Day in the life: Rachel Bicker, biodiversity consultant

Harry Kemble finds out which species can survive and thrive in conservation areas around Gatwick’s runway.

I start the day with…
A bird and reptile survey at 7am. It’s about going out on site, recording the species and coming up with biological data. How many of them are there and whether they are rare or protected.

My daily duties also involve…
Giving site visits and taking specialists out into the field. We have a lot of green space that is put aside for ecological service. We have a lot of habitats around the airport, which means quite varied species of bats, dormice, badgers and reptiles, as well as great-crested newts.

I’ve been in my job…
Since 2012, when I started part-time doing the ecological monitoring on the habitats we have here. I graduated in 2009 with a zoology degree and then did a masters in biological research, both at Royal Holloway. I volunteered for the Sussex Wildlife Trust for about two years until 2011 before getting my first paid job with Gatwick airport. I initially wanted to do academia, but realised that by being outdoors I could gain more knowledge. In the long run it would be more positive to my background and my skill set.

My favourite destination is…
I rarely leave the UK, but if I did go somewhere it would have to be southeast Asia. The countries there have some really colourful bugs. When I go on holiday I go ‘birding’ in the north Kent marshes. I have also been birdwatching in the Cairngorms in Scotland. It is really lovely all year round.

The most rewarding part of my job is…
Discovering the different species that we have in the UK, like the small invertebrates such as the bees on the site. There are 240 species of bees in the UK and we have one of the rarest at Gatwick – the longhorn bee. We just made an appearance on [BBC One’s] The One Show because of the colony that lives just north of the airfield.

The most challenging part of my job…
Surrounds my schedule, particularly in the summer. I organise visits from staff, passengers and local residents to show them the wildlife living in and around Gatwick’s nature sites. The size of the place is a challenge but the amount of help I get is really good.

The most common thing I am asked is…
We often get asked if the wildlife is affected by the noise of the aircraft. The answer is no, otherwise the wildlife would not be here. We have such a great collection of species.

The worst thing that’s happened at work is…
Probably when equipment goes wrong. I have habit of losing things and was in the woodland with my boss’s GPS. I put my bag down and looked back to see I had put it in bracken. It took about five hours to find. To make things worse, I had gone out without food and water. The GPS was worth a couple of hundred pounds. I could have navigated myself home, but did not want to have a conversation about losing the GPS with my boss. I eventually found it just before 6pm.

To relax I like to…
Look at birds if I have time. I will go to see another ecologist at Knepp Castle [also in West Sussex] where there are wetlands. I also like watching owls go hunting.

The one thing I would take to a desert island is…
A net, so I could catch food. It is a very practical choice, but it means I would be able to catch bugs and make a species list. This is probably the geekiest thing that will appear in Travel Weekly.

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