Garden blogs

First Steps: A Science Placement Student

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I’m Alice, one of two new placement students in the Garden. As part of my biology course at the University of Manchester, I’ll be spending ten months here learning everything I can about plants, bees and butterflies. There’s already been a lot to take in and I’ve only been here a couple of weeks.

Despite only arriving at the Garden a couple of weeks ago, the process that led to me coming here began way back in December 2015 when the placement was advertised. I applied through my University with a CV and cover letter and had my interview in early January. I found out I had been chosen for the placement when I got home that day and then it was a ten month wait. Ten months is a long time, and when we arrived I was surprised to find that the Tropical House had been converted into a butterfly house and five new beehives had been set up in the back garden of our student house!

As a placement student, I have to get stuck in with almost every activity in the Garden; whether it’s helping with plant surveys, preparing samples for research or observing beehive checks with the beekeepers.

So far my favourite role has been as a butterfly ranger in Plas Pilipala. This involves chatting to the public about the Garden’s butterflies, rescuing any butterflies that have become trapped behind leaves, releasing newly emerged butterflies and gluing chrysalises onto sticks ready to go into the emergence cage. Not only is this all very interesting, but it takes place in the Tropical House which is kept at a lovely 26°C all day!

However the special thing about this placement is that I get to work on my own project related to work at the Garden, and there are plenty of things to choose from, such as assessing the diversity of rainforests in Borneo or recording pollinator foraging habits. I’m hoping to study how light levels affect butterflies with regard to both their behaviour and wellbeing.

I’m excited for the challenges ahead. My fellow placement student Lucy and I will be keeping you updated with our progress.