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Meet the Team

Meet some of the core people behind the success and enterprise of the ASU!

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Esther Blakey
Farm Manager & Lecturer 

! qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2003 and went to on to become head nurse of a first opinion practice, where I also took on role of clinical coach/assessor supporting student nurses in their training.  I moved into teaching in 2005 joining Writtle University College as an Animal Management/Veterinary Nursing lecturer and course tutor gaining my Certificate of Education through Greenwich University.  In the following 9 years I worked to develop alternative education programmes for 14–16-year-olds and qualified as an Assessor and Verifier, whilst also guest lecturing on the Animal Science Degree.  In 2015 I achieved her Level 4 Award in Canine Hydrotherapy to support the development of the hydrotherapy unit at Writtle University College.  I joined the ASU@SWCHS in 2016 where I have led the team to gaining approval to offer City and Guilds qualifications, I am passionate about education and animal welfare and support the staff in championing the animals they are responsible for. In my spare time I can be found exercising/working my two-gun dogs, horse riding and spending time with my family.


Gemma Barton

I have always had a passion for animals, but for the most part this has been directed towards horses. I went to Hartpury college in 2013 and gained my Bachelor's degree in Equine Science and then went on to become qualified as an Equine Veterinary Physiotherapy. I run my Physiotherapy business in my own time, and have had a few different jobs working in the Equine industry since university, but have uncovered a secret passion for teaching since starting at The ASU. I have found working with a wider variety of animals very rewarding and enjoy the new challenges that working with different species brings. My favourite modules are Anatomy and Physiology and Biology which I teach at level 2 and 3, and I oversee the ferrets, chickens, goats and pigs in the unit. I have found a particular interest in chicken breeding recently and will hopefully have some exciting breeds coming through for everyone to see!


Kiera Monk

I started my career working with animals as a teenager working in a riding school, since then I have gained experience working in rescue with cats, rabbits and wildlife as well as completed my Level 3 Animal Management. I became employed at the ASU in 2019 having previously done two years' work experience during the time I was completing my Level 3. In my free time I enjoy training and competing in dog agility.

As a member of the ASU team I am involved with all the farm has to offer, including events management, teaching and development projects. At home I have a variety of amazing pets and I am very dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of animals, 


Hannah Kent
Guest Lecturer 

I am an animal biologist and a welfare specialist with 10 years teaching and lecturing experience. I graduated with a BSc (hons) in Animal Biology, and went on to get my full PGCE and then continue with post-graduate study. I am a member of the Royal Society of Biologists, and have a huge breadth of experience in different animals based industries.

I have been involved with the ASU since 2016, where I have routinely assisted with the development of animal collections, especially with the reptiles and exotics. I still attend occasionally to lecture in my specialist subjects which include exotic animal management, animal behaviour, and animal welfare law, and ethics. 

I currently work as an Executive Officer for the Animal Plant Health Agency under DEFRA and am putting my knowledge and experience with animal health and disease to good use. 


Amber Jackson
Casual Technician

I have always had a passion for animals and wanting to work with them from a young age. This became a reality when I started at the ASU in 2017. I first started at the ASU as a student, and I went on to do both the courses a level 2 Animal Care and a level 3 Animal Management. While completing these courses, I gained a lot of knowledge about many different species of animals and how to correctly care for them. After I completed my courses I was then offered a position as an animal technician. This means that it is my job to look after the animals that we house in the unit. As well as caring for the animals that I have to care for on the ASU I also have care for my two cats and my royal python.

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Archie Bide
Student Technician

Archie started as a student with the ASU as a level 2 students and has been steadily progressing towards his level 3. Archie has taken on a technician role alongside his studies which is highly beneficial to him and to the animals that he has been working with and getting to know. 

Archie has a particular interest in herpetology and entomology, and boasts a wonderful collection of fish, amphibians and invertebrates at home including his bright blue lobster. 

Archie has been working hard on his university applications and will likely be heading into higher education in September 2023, making us all very proud and continuing his study into animal health and welfare. 

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