The Adventures of Dexter and Axel Blog

Working with Wildlife - An interview with Ashley James

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An interview with.....


This is a new series of blogs, of interviews with some wonderful people who work within the animal industry, from zoo keepers, to museum curators and everything in between and those that are on the path to working in these positions too. Be inspired for a future where you can combine your love of animals with your day job. I hope you enjoy these interviews, that you can learn something from them and they can inspire you


Now let me introduce you to Ashley...


Ashley James




Isle of Wight

What do you do?

I am an ecological consultant

What does it involve?

My job involves working alongside developers, and infrastructure companies to ensure they comply with British law regarding our wildlife. This starts with us undertaking what is called a Phase 1 survey. This is a process where you have to go to the land that wants to be developed and check the site for its potential for protected species. You need to have your detective hat on when searching to make sure all wildlife is taken into consideration. Once this stage is complete we will compile a report for the clients which will state whether they require further survey for protected species on there land. Now to fun part surveying for wildlife, we undertake all sorts the most common surveys we do are the following bat surveys which involves sitting outside a property/tree with a bat detector waiting to see what species emerges from the house/tree. The detector is clever and reads frequency we cant hear which helps us identify what bat it is! Great crested Newt surveys involve surveying a pond for newts basically pond dipping! We use plastic bottles to make a trap and leave it over night an come back in the morning to see what we have found! The other two common surveys are reptile where we leave mats made up of roofing felt or corrugate tin for a period of 7 days.  We check the mats every day (weather dependent) and count all the reptiles we come across. Finally dormice surveys are also undertaken frequently this involves setting up a number of dormouse tubes within a hedgerow/woodland and come back and check to see if you have any fluffy dormice! Apologies for the length!!

How did you get into it?

I volunteered for a while with local consultancies and wildlife charities to gain experience as-well as having a passion for wildlife really helped. 

What made you want to do what you do?

Always used to go down to my grandparents every Sunday when i was younger and they showed me the birds and red squirrels that visited the Garden! Ever since then i have been hooked. So my grandparents have inspired me for my love of wildlife.

Did you need and particular qualifications?

Yes i have a diploma in countryside management and a degree in ecology and conservation management. 

Any tips for a young person that wants to do what you do?

Show your passion and enthusiasm for wildlife and the outdoors. That is the my biggest tip, and volunteer with local wildlife trusts or consultancies. If your lucky some will offer you a position after a survey season (consultancies). 

What’s the best part of what you do?

The best part is i get to see wildlife that not a lot of people have seen. I have seen and handled slow worms, grass snakes and adders, as well as great crested newts and dormice. I also know i am a spokesperson for the wildlife as they do not have a voice and i know I’m doing my part to protect these animals.

What’s your favourite animal?

Mine has to be a Brazilian Tapir! Fell in love with these in my previous short but illustrious career as a zookeeper! There noses are so beautiful!

What was the first animal that you fell in love with?

As a kid it has to be when my parents first showed me a slow worm in our compost bin. I was mesmerised by how it looked like a snake but was a lizard and the fact it was living in our garden. I spent ages reading books and studying them and even named him Mr Slowie! 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am an avid bird watcher so enjoy twitching rare birds where i can.My highlight is  Penduline tit at Titchfield haven in Hampshire January 2016! Also love going to the gym and a massive Liverpool fan up the reds! 

If you weren’t doing what you do now what else would you love to do?

I've always wanted to help society so i would of probably chosen Police officer, or specifically wildlife crime officer.

Who inspires you? 

Steve irwin was a massive inspiration to me and so is Nick Baker and Chris Packham. The passion and enthusiasm is infectious and if there are days I’m feeling sluggish i look to them and they lift my spirits!

Where can people find you? 

People can find me on young_ecologist_adventures on instagram

and any professionals can find me on linked inn Ashley James

If you work within the wildlife industry and would like to be featured as part of this blog series please pop me an email to [email protected]

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