1 August 2014

It was a good day for student Jon Harvey when he won The Lancaster Environment Centre innovation prize and landed a place on a new masters course that will take him to China. 

Jon, who has just graduated with first class honours in Environmental Biology, gained top marks in his year for his Bachelors of Science dissertation, which evaluated the success of a project to restore rare grassland in a Cumbrian nature reserve.

On the same day Jon heard that he had won the prize, he learned that he had been accepted on Lancaster University's new funded Masters in International Innovation, which includes a year working on a commercial environmental project in China's Guangdong province. 

Working with business

Jon first got the taste for working with business while doing research with the Horticultural Development Company during his undergraduate degree.

“I really enjoyed doing research in an applied way that has commercial relevance,” said Jon, who will spend the first year of his two year masters studying at Lancaster University, including learning about Chinese culture and how to speak Mandarin.  He'll then spend all, or part, of the following year working in China on an environmental project involving both a UK and a Chinese SME.

Jon, like other students on the International Innovation masters, will receive a £16,000 bursary to help with living costs.

Jon chose to study at Lancaster University because of the flexibility and choice it offered. He was originally studying biology taught jointly by the Biological and Life Sciences Department and the Lancaster Environment Centre. This meant Jon was able to do a wide range of modules and he quickly realised that he enjoyed the ecological aspects of his studies. So he decided to major in Environmental Biology

Restoring rare grassland

His dissertation, with the Watchtree Nature Reserve, evaluated the effectiveness of a project to restore MG5 grassland, which has been rapidly declining and is highlighted as at risk in the UK Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

Jon said he got fantastic support from the people at Watchtree, and also from his Lancaster supervisor, Dr Carly Stevens. “She was awesome, absolutely lovely.  She taught me grassland species identification and I discovered a lot about plant anatomy and taxonomy. I also had to learn extra lab skills and how to do nitrogen and phosphorus analysis of the soil. It was a very steep learning curve.”

While Jon's research showed that the Watchtree project had not been successful, it also provided some suggestions of why it had not worked and what the Reserve could do to make projects like this work better in future.

Jon got very good feedback from Watchtree about his research and was told that the reserve may may introduce some of the drainage techniques that he recommended.

On top of all his academic work, Jon found time to learn scuba diving at Lancaster and ended up as President of the University Sub Aqua Club.

See more information about studying Ecology and Biology at the Lancaster Environment Centre.