Written by Katy Keighley
I wasn’t initially going to submit a blog as my story is only just beginning. However, I thought that there’s no harm in sharing the first drafts of life. My name is Katy and I’m a 20 year old BSci Animal Biology and Conservation undergrad, graduating in June this year!!
I grew up in very quiet part of Wales, and didn’t live close to any of my school friends. This meant that playing out with them after school was a bit of a no-go. My parents realised this and so made huge amounts of effort to keep my sister and I entertained despite their busy work schedules. They were and still are the best parents I could have asked for. The did everything with us, they took us to the beach to go surfing, on long walks in the mountains, to castles and lakes, my dad even got us into playing rugby… but that’s beside the point! As a result, I developed a huge love of the outdoors. I was even voted the ‘Best Adventurer ’in my scouts troop two years running, I thoroughly thought this meant that I was basically Robert Falcon Scott.
Although I didn’t realise it for many years, I was very lucky to have grown up where I did. Despite loving outdoor activities, I wasn’t overly obsessed with wildlife (yet). In fact, I remember visiting an archery centre that (for some very bizarre reason) had resident emus. I initially thought they were great, and reached over to give one a pat on the head. As you would probably expect, I was bitten pretty hard by that giant bird, and after a gush of tears I declared a hatred of all birds (feel free to roll your eyes at that).
This all changed when I started volunteering in the Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust (WWT). The 18 months I worked there, my dislike of birds blossomed into something quite the opposite! I began to fall for their funny personalities and was eager to learn more about them (particularly Hawaiian geese, they’re the best). I loved chatting to the photographers about what they’d seen and photographed, despite being very envious of their incredible camera lenses. I learnt a lot whilst I was there, both about wildlife and about myself. I knew after this experience that my future was to be a wildlife-focused one.
When it came to apply for university, I knew I wanted to something that involved the outdoors and wildlife. However, I had lost a lot of confidence in myself after struggling with an eating disorder throughout my A-levels. As a result, I thought I should peruse a degree that would lead me straight to a job… at the time this was pharmacy. I knew deep down that this path wasn’t for me, and eventually applied to study biology and got in (hooray!!).
My first year at university was incredible! I loved my course, especially the modules involving plants and animals. One particular module involved a field trip to France where we were taught how to identity species of plant and insect. After returning from this trip, I immediately emailed my lecturer asking if I could change my course to Animal Biology and Conservation, he said yes so long as I passed my exams (side note, I did!!!).
Flash to today and I’m in my final year of university, writing my thesis on the spatial and temporal distribution of wildebeest. I collected my data on a six week trip to Kenya with my fantastic lecturer and some amazing course mates, as well as a few lovely students from Humboldt State University This trip was genuinely one of the absolute highlights of my life. I learnt so much about savannah ecology and Kenyan culture, wildlife photography, and the reasons why you don’t stroke feral cats (a story for another time). This trip was definitely the first of many to come, and I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for future adventures!!
My degree not only developed my love for life on this planet, but it also made me realise how many wildlife stories are still untold. As a result, I really want to get into journalism after I graduate so I can natter on about salmon farming and the effects of global warming to people other than my poor family, who have probably endured enough (bless them). Saying that, who knows what’s to come! I’m only 20, I have my whole life ahead of me and there is SO much I have yet to learn! Whatever happens happens, and I can’t wait! Here’s to a life of adventure!
(If you’ve read this far, feel free to send me a message if you wanna nerd out about animals together :D).
For more of Katy, check out @wilder.life.with.katy