Aleah Maltby - Student Profiles - University of Derby

Aleah Maltby

BA (Hons) Outdoor Activity Leadership and Coaching (now replaced by BA (Hons) Outdoor Leadership and Management)

Aleah charts new territory with bat research

Aleah Maltby chose her degree because it gave her the chance to explore the great outdoors – and her journey of discovery took her in unexpected directions beneath the earth too!

Having just completed our Outdoor Leadership degree, Aleah says that it gave her a passion for ecology – and particularly the conservation of bats – which she plans to harness for her future career.

Her final-year independent study focused on the bats dwelling in Poole’s Cavern, an ancient limestone show cavern on the edge of Buxton. She set up specialist recording equipment and spent three months investigating the cave’s bat species, their swarming behaviours and how they are affected by environmental factors such as rainfall and temperature.

The experience has now prompted her to join the MSc in Conservation Biology at the University, with the aim of specialising in bats and obtaining the licences to become a bat surveyor.

Aleah says: “I am now very sure I would like to continue with conservation and ecology work. One of the best aspects of the degree is the sheer diversity of modules. It allows you to truly explore the outdoors, concentrating not just on outdoor activities but also on nature conservation, psychology, science and the leadership skills you need to become an instructor.

“The degree title is just the icing on the cake: it cannot begin to explain the amount of knowledge you gain and the pathways which are open to you when you finish.”

Fieldtrips have been a vital part of the study experience for Aleah, beginning with a week-long camping trip at the start of the course which included activities such as rock climbing, bouldering, walking, bushcraft and ecology to help students get to know each other. This was followed by a trip to the Lake District to summit Scafell Pike and go wild camping. “It was a fantastic experience and a personal achievement that I am still proud of,” she says.

The highlight, however, was a ten-day white water kayaking expedition in Slovenia. Aleah recalls: “This was an opportunity not to be missed. As a novice kayaker, I struggled both mentally and physically at times during the trip, but I overcame many obstacles and successfully kayaked some difficult rapids. It was truly a trip to remember, and if I hadn’t chosen this degree, I wouldn’t have even learnt how to kayak in the first place.” 

As part of her studies, she undertook Lowland Leader training and gained an advanced outdoor First Aid qualification which helped her to secure summer freelance work. She has even led National Citizen Service groups at the University’s own Oaklands Manor Outdoor Leadership Centre. 

Aleah believes the course has also equipped her with broader employability skills, including confidence in making presentations, compiling reports for the workplace and conducting research.

Her advice to anyone considering the degree would be to give everything a try in an open-minded way. “If I had not pursued the ecological side of the course because I had come just to be an outdoor instructor, then I would not have known what I wanted to do in future. The lecturers are a huge strength of this course. They are truly there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions in or out of lectures.”