Jamie Bolam

jamie bolam profile

St Cross Scholarship in MSc Biodiversity, Conservation & Management

Joining us from: Milton Keynes, UK

MSc Biodiversity, Conservation & Management (BCM) (2022)

I grew up going to regular state schools in Milton Keynes, a city an hour from Oxford. I’ve always loved animals and wildlife and spent my childhood watching nature documentaries, looking at animal pictures in encyclopaedias and doing things outdoors like camping.

I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Exeter from 2018-2022, in Biological Sciences with an Animal Specialism, with an Elective Year (in lieu of a year abroad) with proficiency in Japanese.

I’ve always loved animals growing up, especially mammals, and as a child wanted to become a zookeeper. I became interested in a career in nature conservation in my mid-teens after writing a 5,000 word literature review of the conservation and reintroduction of the European Bison. I have been keeping up to date with my favourite organisation’s work, like that of Rewilding Europe’s bison projects, ever since, which has been a real source of inspiration. My interests in conservation and megafauna continued to grow in my previous degree at the University of Exeter, during which I started to gain additional experience volunteering in Greece on a sea turtle project, as well as more local moth and bat surveying. I also gained lots of knowledge and experience through my degree, such as modules in conservation biogeography and a coral reef research trip to The Bahamas’ San Salvador Island.

My second passion is learning languages – there is nothing more rewarding than connecting with someone in their mother tongue and opening up more of the world for exploration and connection. I studied French up to A Level and have informally continued or maintained my knowledge after a two year hiatus, now still being able to function pretty well in French. I also studied Japanese for the past two years of university and am conversational, and speak some basic Portuguese after speed-learning some since May for a graduation trip in July/August of this year. I also learnt Mandarin during GCSE’s and while I can’t remember much now, it’s enough to surprise and connect with Mandarin speakers!

I also love strength sports, particularly calisthenics (bodyweight strength exercises eg pull-ups, handstands, pushups), having been the calisthenics society president and vice president during my years at Exeter University. 

I have recently started my own podcast, where I talk with people I find interesting and exciting. Topics range from exercise to learning Japanese to salsa dancing. Now I’m at Oxford I plan to have all my course mates on, as well as some academics and collegemates.

My third main hobby is dancing – I took up salsa and bachata last year and dance a few times a week. In summer I took up kizomba and I have now started Argentine tango classes too. Before this I was learning guitar for two and a half years, but dancing has replaced that as my creative outlet.

In the future I intend to work in high-impact wildlife conservation internationally. I am especially interested in megafauna so would like to focus on top carnivores and herbivores, like jaguars, rhinos and giraffes. I am not sure where exactly I would like to work as I could see myself in the Americas, Africa or Asia and would like to help conservation efforts across various areas.

My exact ideas after this master are still being elucidated, but after some time in the field I would be very open to pursuing a DPhil, having been inspired by the researchers I have met at the University of Oxford.

My main reasons for applying to the University of Oxford were twofold: Firstly, Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) has been an inspiration for me ever since one of my professors told me about them in my second year of study. They do the coolest high-impact research on big carnivores across the world; from Jaguar trafficking and conflict in the Americas to lion research in Tanzania, to wolf research on the Tibetan Plateau. I happened to read a lot of Dr Mohammad Farhadinia’s research for my bachelor’s thesis modelling the habitat suitability of leopards across Africa and West Asia, and to now be learning from him personally is a dream come true.

My second reason to apply to my course specifically is that it was unique among conservation degrees, which are virtually all pure ecology. Conservation in practice requires understanding of people: through law, social sciences, economics and management, alongside knowledge of biogeographical principles more easily conceived in people’s ideas of nature conservation. BCM was simply the best degree I saw and the only one I wanted to do – it just happened to be at Oxford!

Of course, this is no insignificant thing – having the name of Oxford behind one and the opportunities it affords as a world-class research institution are not to be scoffed at. The true value I’ve found at Oxford so far have been the people – from my inspiring coursemates and collegemates to world-class professors, and the events and people that come to Oxford to speak.

I did not choose St Cross – I originally applied for Lady Margaret Hall as they had links to WildCRU, but as I knew little of all the colleges and quite a lot hosted my course, I’ll admit my research and preferences went no deeper than LMH’s links to WildCRU. I’m very glad to be at St Cross, I love the College site, the cosy atmosphere and small size and the fact that it is postgraduate only. Everyone is so interesting and specific!

St Cross’ scholarship has immensely relieved the financial stress of paying for the master’s at Oxford – it could have been done, barely, but would have required scraping together a lot of money and getting the maximum student loan possible. I am grateful beyond words for having been selected for this scholarship and still can’t believe it!