Natalie Andersen - BSc (Hons) Environmental Science

Current Employer: Dar al-Handasah
Current Job Title: Senior Environmental Specialist
Current Location: London

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

I started working with Dar as soon as leaving Plymouth in June 2013. I work in the environment team undertaking environmental and social impact assessments, strategic environmental assessments and environmental monitoring. I work primarily in the Middle East and Africa and since joining the team I have travelled to Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Kenya for work. 

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I have worked on a long-term monitoring project in Qatar where I undertook dive surveys of corals, seagrasses and macroalgae and mangrove surveys. It has been an amazing project from which I have learnt so much about ecological surveying techniques. I've had the opportunity to travel to a place I didn't even know existed and hopefully make a difference in a country where environmental protection is not always a priority.

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

Make the effort to concentrate and do well in first year modules as well enjoying the new experience of university. You are being taught them because they will form your basis of knowledge and help you in your second and third year, especially statistics! It was invaluable during completing my dissertation.

Always reference!

What was your main reason for choosing to study your course at Plymouth? With hindsight how significant was this for you (e.g. the course was accredited, offered a work placement or additional Masters year, location was key)?

The Environmental Science course offered the HSE Scuba as part of the degree, something which wasn’t offered anywhere else. The location was also a big factor, so close to the sea.

HSE Professional SCUBA diving course

Plymouth is unique in offering its students the opportunity to gain the HSE Professional SCUBA certification alongside their degree. Scientific diving skills can be enhanced via an optional academic module and getting involved in research projects.

Learn how you can enhance your scientific diving skills
Diver Working Underwater

How did studying at Plymouth change your career aspirations and plans?

I would never been offered my job if I hadn't gained the HSE Scuba qualification. It has led to a job straight out of university and to some fantastic opportunities. I had originally intended to continue studying, applying for a masters when I finished my BSc.

What is your favourite memory of studying for your degree at Plymouth?

I am not sure I have one specific memory, I enjoyed my studies at Plymouth a huge amount and met some amazing people along the way who I know will be friends for life. I particularly loved the diving. Going out on a freezing January morning to dive near the breakwater never seemed appealing at the time but I look back now and remember how brilliant it was.

How well did Plymouth prepare you for the challenges that you have faced, or will face, in your career?

My course involved a lot of group work, something which everyone found difficult as we were working with people who had different ideas on how we should manage the work. However it has taught me how to deal with real-life situations in work, where you don’t get a choice as to who you work with and things often have to be managed sensitively.

Why would you recommend undertaking a course with the University?

The University is in a really good location, Plymouth is a great university town with lots to offer. You have Dartmoor, Cornwall and all the beautiful beaches on your doorstep. The lecturers are really knowledgeable, many of them experts in their field and there are opportunities to take part in loads of activities.

Students sampling dog whelks in Hong Kong