Work Experience with OPAL

Blog post: Clara Hawkin's my work experience placement at OPAL

What has been your favourite part of the week (1st week)?

I have been carrying out various different tasks this week but my favourite was doing the Polli:Nation survey and photographically documenting it. I had previously been doing some data entry for this survey (entering the data that is sent to OPAL through mail) and found it really interesting being able to do the survey myself and comparing my results to others. I had also been doing some research on the species in the ‘Species Quest’ section of the survey and felt that I had a much better understanding of these species, which made the survey more interesting.

Something new you have learnt:

I have learnt many different things but I have mainly learnt about different pollinators (through different tasks I have carried out related to the Polli:Nation survey). I did some research tasks and drafted some tweets about the pollinators mentioned in the survey and I found that I now have a much better understanding of these species. I also notice them a lot more than I did before I spent two weeks at OPAL.

I also gained a much greater understanding of the work environment in general. I found that, compared to school, you have a lot more liberty and are a lot less restricted by fixed timetables etc. These two weeks have also given me the opportunity to do some things that you do not usually do. For example, I did some data entry and before that, it never occurred to me that people have to enter the data that you send by post. It was also really nice to be able to see the bigger picture. For example, during OPAL staff meetings I got to hear about the various things that everyone was working on and future projects for OPAL and I found it very interesting to see how everything fits together.

Your experience of working at OPAL, or on particular pieces of work:

I have really enjoyed working at OPAL for two weeks. There was a really nice atmosphere and everyone got along really well. It was a great place to spend two weeks and I am very happy that I got to do my work experience here! As well as having a nice atmosphere, it was really interesting to see all the different aspects of OPAL (how the surveys work, OPAL’s plans for the next year, and communication plans for the Polli:Nation survey).

I have been given quite a variety of tasks during these two weeks. These were all new to me and it was a great experience to discover some of the work that takes place in an organisation like OPAL. I found writing tweets about the species in the ‘Species Quest’ for National Insect Week very fun and it was interesting to see how social media such as Twitter can be used to promote a project like Polli:Nation. I also really enjoyed the data entry as well as the research tasks (particularly about the species in the ‘Species Quest’) because they both made me understand the surveys better and have some background.  

Your experience of the surveys you have tried so far or anything interesting from data entry:

So far, I have carried out the Polli:Nation survey and the New Zealand Flatworm survey. I found them very fun and entertaining and very interesting at the same time (for example, I didn’t know about all the specific species in the ‘Species Quest’…). The instructions are clear and easy to follow and I think that the surveys are a great way to spend more time outdoors. I also found that after doing the Polli:Nation survey, I notice pollinators much more often than I used to.

While doing data entry, I found it very interesting to see how the recording sheets were filled out, which questions people had often missed… It also helped me get a good idea of the content of the surveys which helped when I got to do them as I was already familiar with them. I also found it really interesting to see where people usually carry out particular surveys, for example, I found that most people do the New Zealand Flatworm survey in their garden. It was also great to see who typically does these surveys (they were mostly people in primary or secondary school but some with friends and families).

Favourite place to enjoy nature:

My favourite place to enjoy nature would have to be Richmond Park, in London. Despite being in London, when you set foot in Richmond Park you feel like you are in the country side. It is a huge park, with deer, and there are so many different things that you can do there. One of the things that I love to do there the most is going for a hack on a horse (there is a riding school in Richmond Park and you can go on hacks in the park with an instructor). It is a really magical feeling to be able to see the deer and all the trees while you are cantering down the path!