Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Ella's work experience diary: a week at Lindisfarne NNR

Work experience student Ella joined us for a week to help out with work on the Reserve and learn a little more about what a career in conservation might entail. Read more in her own words below:


I was shown around the reserve base by Ceris and shown all fire exits, then introduced to my week with a talk from Andrew. I was taken out to meet a volunteer John and we walked through the beautiful sand dunes and over the fields where the cows graze in the summer. We got to Ross Back Sands beach and I was shown how to use a telescope and a pair of binoculars - it was hard at first but I got there in the end.

I saw harbour porpoises, a seal and many types of birds. I can now recognise certain birds like redshanks. It was cool to see a bird and then refer to the bird book to get more information on them. After a couple of hours we walked back and drove to Holy Island harbour. We saw around 400 seals hauled out on an island opposite. I could see them perfectly through the telescope. Through the naked eye they looked like rocks! We went back to the reserve for lunch and I started creating displays for the reserve about nurdles and single use plastics, learning about how there will be soon more plastic in the ocean than fish and that the amount of plastic being put into the ocean is equivalent to a dumping truck full to the brim of plastic emptying its contents into the ocean every minute.

Redshank © JJD



I was introduced to Kristian from Coast Care who was sitting in on the event that morning to see how Natural England run their volunteer events. I then met four more interesting volunteers who were lovely and friendly and learned a lot in conversations about degree and career choices and what it’s really like to go into conservation. We got our equipment and went through safety precautions and then we cut down willow on the Snook to prevent the sand dunes turning into woodland. I learnt how to use secateurs and got stuck right into the job. It was hard work but felt very rewarding seeing it all in a pile at the end. We found a skylark nest and carried that back to the car to use for educational purposes - to point out how they don’t stand out and show how easy it is for you or your dog to trample and destroy one of them.

I sorted out the Reserve’s t-shirts into sizes and recorded how many of each they had. Then we went back out and did a photo shoot in the t-shirts. We chose backgrounds such as the Causeway and the Beacons which are very scenic. 

We then did a seal watch, engaging and educating the public by showing them the seals hauled out through the telescope. We got the key messages across about keeping your dogs on leads, keeping to the paths allowed and being aware that seals hauled out on the beach are normally fine and not to bother them as it will scare them.


I’ve loved my work experience so far, it’s been brilliant. Especially in comparison to some of my friends who told me they have been just sat on a spinning chair and left to do nothing all day. Meanwhile, I’ve been getting stuck in on my hands and knees out and about seeing things and talking to people. We went out to the rocky shore on Holy Island turning over rocks in the rock pools on the hunt for Corella eumyota, the orange-tipped sea squirt. We had to remove them as they are not native species, and have travelled from places like Indonesia on ships or bits of plastic. I recorded results by tallying how many rocks we turned over and filling in two tables, one for mid shore and one for upper shore. I described the rocks that did have Corella in these tables, including their size, rock type, percentage of Corella and percentage of sessile species. I also helped by measuring the rocks’ width and length using a ruler and filming/photographing exciting animals such as worms and anemones. Corella must be removed as they compete for space and food with the native species and we have to give the native animals a fair chance. I carried the sample pot back to the reserve and weighed the Corella out on scales with a paper towel underneath. The weight came to just over 2 grams.


I added to my diary of the week, then went out with Ceris and Katherine to meet a volunteer John in a hide to bird watch and identify birds. I learnt how to identify more birds such as curlew and shelduck. I also practiced my telescope skills which by today had improved drastically from the start of the week. We then came back for lunch and then went out to put signs up on the cliff edges to improve the public’s safety and awareness near the edges. We walked ages around the fields to get there and it was beautiful and then went to another hide to bird watch on the way back. Back at the base, I started a report on Corella. 


I learnt a lot about how to complete scientific reports as I made graphs, tables, drew conclusions from data, wrote up the method and researched Corella, developing my knowledge and my skills in researching.

In the afternoon we went to a beach and picked up litter using a wheelbarrow and bags. I learnt lots from the litter pick - how to be safe and what to look out for like dangerous chemicals, bombs and sharp materials. Throughout the week Katherine and Ceris got me to go through the risk assessment for each activity, asking me questions and making me think for myself which was useful. We saw a short-eared owl on the route home and I learnt how to identify it from its yellow eyes and distinctive ‘ears’ before travelling back over the causeway.

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