David Oakley is a part-time PhD student looking at the occupancy-based analysis of the weasel, stoat and polecat population. His studies have attracted national attention and he’s even appeared on the BBC’s One Show. According to David, studying at Southampton Solent University has allowed him the opportunity to create his own original contribution to scientific knowledge in his chosen field.
When looking around for a place to study, it was important to David to find somewhere that would not dictate his research topic. “At some places, you’re applying for a PhD that is already laid out for you,” says David. “Solent has given me the chance to explore my own chosen research topic.
David’s work has the potential to fill a recognised gap in knowledge. “Essentially, there is at present no way of assessing whether these three members of the mustelid family are in an area, or how many there are,” he says. “I am trying to develop a rapid assessment protocol with the use of camera trapping and audio logs. The camera traps are set up in the study sites, and can be baited, non-baited or drag baited.”
Currently in the stage of designing the methodology for his project, David has already conducted a 40-day study in the New Forest. He is about to start a second study and will then move site to South Devon.
Of studying at Solent, David says the PhD is well structured. "You’re supported from the beginning to reach the milestones that guide your progress along the way. Southampton Solent University has given me the opportunity to create my own original contribution to scientific knowledge in my chosen field. Also my academic supervisors provide fantastic support and encouragement, and good guidance in finding the way to do this makes all the difference.”
David has a keen interest in wildlife, so enjoys his studies. But he’s also gaining in other ways.
“Carrying out the research has developed my confidence in the abilities that I have. My problem-solving skills are improving and my ability to assess new concepts objectively is also strengthening.
“I suppose what I find most rewarding is the realisation that I am adding something to the knowledge in my field of study, which I am proud of. If I manage to do this, it will become the protocol for how it’s done, so I will be the expert.”
David’s appearance on the BBC is deserved recognition of the interest in his studies, and he adds, “it was a great opportunity to highlight the plight of the stoat and weasel, in conjunction with my research, to a much wider audience.”