Friday, 13 April 2018

Undergraduate Work Experience on Lindisfarne NNR

We may not have had warm, sunny weather the past week on Holy island, however this has not stopped me from getting stuck in to my Lindisfarne NNR work placement with Natural England! I am completing the placement as part of one of my BSc Marine Zoology modules at Newcastle University. I aspire to go into conservation and as I enjoy outreach this placement was ideal for me to gain valuable transferable skills and knowledge by working alongside Annie, the Reserve Manager.

Tuesday: Having been used to the relatively laid-back life as a university student it was quite daunting initially entering the work placement regardless of how prepared I felt when I arrived. Although I was a little nervous I didn’t let it put me off and I quickly settled into my role. The first day we were running a ‘Signs of Spring’ event which allowed visitors to complete a variety of spring crafts including dragonfly bookmarks and butterfly lifecycles. The aim of the events was to highlight key messages about safeguarding nature when visiting the Reserve, these messages included keeping dogs on a lead or at heel, keeping to desire lines and observing advice on signage. I felt like a sponge as I absorbed all the aspects of how to effectively prepare, set-up and run the events which are taking place over the coming week. I also got to know Gill and David, two Lindisfarne NNR volunteers who often help with various reserve activities.

Dragonfly bookmark making

Wednesday: By day two my nerves were a distant memory – I arrived on site and once greeted by Gill and David we went over the causeway to set up the days event, ‘Marine Pollution Solutions’. Having done previous marine outreach I was familiar with the main craft of the event - canvas bag decorating. I really enjoyed interacting with the reserve visitors to raise awareness of how marine pollution affects the wildlife and the environment around us. To help get the message across there was a litter sorting game that involves sorting litter into biodegradable and non-biodegradable items and guessing how long specific materials take to break down. Additionally, visitors were encouraged to pledge to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ and their promises were displayed on the pledge board. During the afternoon I had the opportunity to develop my administration skills as this is a key part of Annie’s role; although I appreciate the importance of the admin tasks to the successful running of the reserve I much prefer the practical elements for sure!

Canvas bag decorating

 Thursday: Thankfully the weather forecast held out and we had a glorious day on the reserve for our shorebird event! Although birds aren’t my forte I shocked myself at how many species I could already recognise and from this I took the opportunity to learn more about the little terns, (Sternula albifrons). This species has long migrations from their wintering sites in Africa and are unfortunately the second highest declining shorebird species, therefore the protection the reserve provides is essential to maximise the chances of a successful breeding season. The crafts encouraged children to recognise the colour patterns of the little terns and ringed plover, (Charadrius hiaticula) and how to spot them when out and about on the reserve. The most popular activity was the badge making – I can now add ‘professional badge maker’ to my CV! David, being a keen birder, set up a telescope and got binoculars out for visitors to use through the ‘Window in the Wild’, overlooking some of the beautiful landscape which I has been my ‘office’. On our return to the mainland our plan to do admin was halted by a power cut, however being flexible workers, this did not cause any issues – Annie and I went to the most southern point of the reserve at Budle Bay and then on to Fenham le Moor bird hide to carry out essential maintenance checks. The views from the hide were stunning and I gained a new appreciation towards the importance of signage on the reserve as a management strategy.

Friday: On the penultimate day of my work placement it was my time to shine as I mainly focused on the execution of my ‘Signs of Spring’ event. It followed the same theme of day one however I expanded my skill set through successfully planning and preparing crafts such as a variety of animal masks and origami butterflies. The event went incredibly well and was very busy – there was a constant flow of visitors and spaces at the craft activities were always full – yey! This came as a great relief for me having executed an equally successful event to the three I helped with prior. It was very rewarding for me to see many excited children (and adults) getting involved in the event which I had planned. During Friday afternoon I utilised my organisation skills to sort through the event boxes, so to make preparation for future events on the reserve more efficient.

Spring masks and origami butterflies

Saturday: This was my last day in placement; it has been very enjoyable and rewarding week! I started the day by researching Natura 2000 – this is the European network which protects the vulnerable habitat and species which the reserve hosts; during university I have studied relevant laws and policies such as the Habitats Directive and so through researching Natura 2000 it allowed me to consolidate my understanding of how various SPAs and SACs protect some of Lindisfarne NNR’s most valuable species and habitat. Once again we ran the shorebirds event. We chose the shorebird theme as the focus as by the end of April the entire reserve will host many species in great abundance thus, it is very important to correspond effectively the correct information to the public regarding protection of the shorebird nesting areas and feeding sites. I also developed my blog writing skills – something else which is completely new to me!

Overall this week has been inspiring and has given me a multitude of skills and a wealth of knowledge relating to conservation and reserve management. I have loved working alongside Annie and experiencing what the role of reserve manager entails – to be honest it is a much more interesting and varied role than I previously thought, and I will be sure to consider a similar role when looking for graduate jobs!

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