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Learning Through Doing

Gus Routlege with SRUC alum Simon Ritchie and Michaela Strachan from Autumnwatch

With both radio and TV appearances during his student days at SRUC’s Craibstone campus in Aberdeen, Gus Routledge was already making a name for himself before he graduated with a degree in Countryside Management.

The 23-year-old from Edinburgh, who has been working as a subcontractor carrying out ecological surveys since graduating in 2020, has been offered a job with environmental and planning consultancy Atmos Consulting.

He has also become a trustee of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, a charity seeking to restore abundance and diversity of life to Scotland’s land and seas.

While at SRUC, Gus was interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors programme about pine martens he had helped camera trap in Aberdeen for the first time, and appeared on the BBC’s wildlife programme Autumnwatch with Michaela Strachan looking at pink-footed geese in Angus.

After his first year, he took a year out from his studies to do a one-year student placement with Scottish Natural Heritage – now NatureScot – based at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, assisting with the management of the reserve as well as visiting and learning about the management of other reserves, from Noss in Shetland to Caerlaverock in Dumfries.

In addition, he was an active member of the Craibstone Rural Skills Club, frequently volunteering with Aberdeen City Council, and Glen Tanar and Mar Lodge Estate Natural Nature Reserves among many others.

He also managed to juggle bits of subcontracting ecological consultancy work with his coursework.

Gus said: “I think I was particularly inspired by the fact all the lecturers really pushed and encouraged us to do what we could beyond lectures to find our feet and work out what we really enjoyed and wanted to do with ourselves.

“It meant I got into exploring the local area around Craibstone in first year, then when I returned with a car in my second year, I spread out into Deeside, Donside and the northeast coastline to develop my knowledge and passion further.

“This learning through doing certainly suited me very nicely and I remember going into exams with a more relaxed attitude than I would have had I not had the experience to back-up what I had been taught. It was also very important, I felt, that I was working with and amongst other people looking to go into different industries to me, whether those were other Countryside Management students or Agriculture and Rural Business Management students.

“It helped challenge my own views and I feel it’s made me have a bit more of a pragmatic view of how the Scottish countryside works.”

The contacts he made during his time at SRUC allowed him to pick up work as a subcontractor after graduation, despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

He has been involved in carrying out herbivore impact assessments and peatland surveys to assess the need for either a reduction of deer numbers or restoration of blanket bog, and worked on the native pinewood survey which was first carried out in 1971.

He is now looking forward to starting his new job with Atmos at the end of March.

“Subcontracting work, as much as I enjoyed it, wasn’t giving me consistent enough work and I also really wanted to move to the Highlands,” he said. “It will give me a completely new local area to explore whilst current restrictions are in place.

“I’d like to keep building my understanding of Scotland’s ecosystems through exploration of our landscape. I’ve most recently become interested in river restoration so we’ll see where that takes me, but thinking beyond that I’d like to get an international perspective. A trip to Norway is high on the agenda, to see many of the habitats that are currently absent from the Scottish Highlands, and wildlife that is rare or absent as well.”

Student Gus Routledge on a Hill

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