Academic PhDs wanted by the BBC Natural History Unit - Deadline Imminent

It’s the sort of opportunity I know some of you would give your eye teeth for - the BBC are looking for PhD biologists with potential as onscreen contributors for their radio, TV and web content. It’s not a guarantee of work, and it’s not linked to a specific project in production or development, but their aim is “to explore a pool of potential on screen talent”.

You must have a PhD (and preferably several years of research experience - post-docs very welcome) in a biological science which has a firm link to natural history - they suggest zoology, ecology or animal behaviour.

I’ve only just been told about it but the deadline’s the 8th December, so take a deep breath and get started on your application. This must consist of :

A CV including details of your academic qualifications, field experience and any previous media work. A strong postgraduate academic background is essential.
A DVD taster/showreel of yourself. (You do have one of these in your drawer, don’t you? Get filming now!)

A single side of A4 describing why you want to be a presenter, what natural history stories or concepts you’d be passionate about presenting, and why.

The DVD should be a max of 5 minutes long and can feature “anything you like that you think shows your onscreen communications skills. We’re not going to be judging these on production standard, we’ll be looking at your performance.” [Yeah, yeah - others may think that postgrads are high brow intellectuals, but we know what you're thinking...]

In return, successful applicants will be invited to a further selection day. They also say they will make every effort to respond to all applicants, even if they’re unsuccessful. However, they are “only interested in hearing from individuals who meet the criteria specified and cannot assist with applications from people looking for opportunities for presenting in other genres.”

If this is the one you’ve been waiting for, send your application to

Sally Cryer, BBC Natural History Unit, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2LR

Noticed by Manchester University Careers Service


  1. This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
    Steve Leonard told me all about this at the Panda Awards and he agrees that it's possibly the worst pool of "talent" to be trying to tap for presenters.

    PhD students spend three years minimum researching a VERY specific subject and becoming the top of their field in THAT subject. To be dedicated enough to get through you HAVE to be obsessed with your subject - they're not interested in television or the broad concept of natural history. They're concerned with the chemicals in the second larval stage of some obscure nematode or the visual perception of a zebra fish embryos.

    ALSO have you met any PhD students? I did a masters in the Biology department of the closest university to the BBC's NHU and there's no way a single one of the PhD students I met there would be suitable onscreen! They live in their labs and in very insular worlds - they are not outgoing presenter types!

    Ridiculous idea!

  2. Emma Rigby9:53 AM

    After reading your comment I felt I had to respond because I disagree so strongly with what you're saying.

    I'm a final year PhD student studying the ecology and conservation of bats and I'm extremely interested in "television and the broad concept of natural history". Like many PhD students I've come across I have a genuine interest in natural history and conservation and felt that an appropriate way to continue that interest was in academia.

    You're making a very broad generalisation about what PhD students are like and very few of us "live in our labs and in very insular worlds" It is perfectly possible to study for a PhD and still have a personality and a life outside of it!

    The BBC have obviously recognised that ecology-based PhD students have a real passion and interest in their area as well as a broad knowledge and want to encourage people with a genuine interest in wildlife to get involved with broadcasting and production. I think it's a brilliant idea and I hope that few people are as quick to dismiss PhD students as you have been.