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Training to be a Conservation Ranger!

Lucky applicants experienced the traineeship of a lifetime during summer of 2019. The North Wales Wildlife Trust ‘Our Wild Coast‘ project, funded by Our Bright Future national scheme provided 12 young people with 2 weeks of engaging training to prepare them for a career in conservation.

The week kicked off with practical conservaton seminars, covering the intrinsic science behind populations, sampling, habitat management, fragmentation, climate change and pollution. Trainees were aged 16 – 21, with a variable knowledge from GCSE to BSC degree, experiences were able to be shared and educated in a welcoming environment.

The Trainees worked towards an AQA qualification, completing examined tasks on topic of the activites persued and knowledge learnt. The rest of the time on the traineeship was spent knee deep in the natural environment, learning practical skills and completing on site habitat management with Trust reserve officers.

Trainees were involved in days of invasive species removal management, learning how to safely and properly use hand tools to manage blackthorn, yellow ragwort and bracken, which all have their associated risks. Blackthorn features 2 inch spines, yellow ragwort has a photosensitive sap which blisters the skin, and bracken can irritate any unprotected skin with fine hairs. These species all also threaten the nature reserve landscapes, encroaching on wildflower meadows and rare marshlands.

A refreshing visit to Newborough beach included a deep beach litter pick, scouring the tide line for washed up plastic and pollution. This was partnered with a wonderful outdoor seminar, sharing knowledge of the inter-tidal bio-diverse community, spotting porpoises on the horizon and collecting and identifying mermaid purses as part of the Open Air Laboratory Survey.

Trainees were also given an exclusive peak of how a third sector Charity is run by CEO Frances Cattanach, engaging the students in the processes and responsibilities of a charity who communicates with their Trustees, the public, staff and members. The Trust ultimately has one goal: To improve places for, and connect people to wildlife. This goal was illustrated in a inspirational map, an estimation of what Wales could look like if natural green spaces could be interconnected, to halt the harms of habitat fragmentation.

Originally, The North Wales Naturalist’s Trust was formed on October 26th 1963. Now the NWWT maintains over 750 hectares of habitat, with over 30 members of staff who manage a budget of over £1.5M.
The Living Landscapes Projects of the Welsh Wildlife Trusts, an initiative to connect native habitats and reduce fragmentation of nature.

Next, a really transformative experience of this traineeship occured at the Llyn Parc Mawr Community Woodland, trainees engaged with the nature for 4 days, upon completion, this patch felt like a wild home from home. A range of workshops took place, from orienteering, bush craft, a certified woodland first aid course, open fire cooking, whittling, invertebrate, tree and plant identification and volunteer management training.

A truly magical experience was creating and using mammal track traps, where a cardboard shelter is made with bait and oil-ink inside, to record the footsteps of visiting shrews, hedgehogs, red squirrels and mustelids. A transferable skill for a non-intrusive way to record species richness in any habitat.

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The enchanting tracks left by mammalian visitors

The camouflaged trap

The large end goal for the trainees was to plan and run a community event together, from 2 weeks ago of being strangers, by the second Friday the group were functioning colleges of varying ages and ability, providing workshops for the community visiting Llyn Parc Mawr.

‘Gwener Gwyllt’, ‘Wild Friday’ was chosen and planned for the 2nd August, to engage the local community in the nature on their doorstep. Workshops included crafting face masks from gathered woodland materials, crayon bark and leaf rubbings, whittling, open fire cooking, a woodland species ID scavenger hunt, and ID woodland tour, bug hunting and ID, a marine ID table and a big beach clean. The day was a wholesome success, and a fantastic end for the time spent at the community woodland!

The flier advertising Gwner Gwyllt

This traineeship provided an invaluable experience to the career direction of prospective Conservation Rangers, perhaps the most granted for aspect was the wonderful working relationship with collegues who all shared the desire for the local nature to be interconnected and protected – this was shared as a friendly atmosphere at the office and in the field. They do say that work worth doing doesn’t feel like work at all!

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The trainees on award day!

Published by thegardeningzoologist

Emily Madeline Davies is the project manager of the only Student - Led Garden in Bangor 'The Healing Garden'. She works with the project leaders to deliver engaging volunteer experiences for students to maintain the garden. Her background is in wildlife gardening and zoology, by volunteering at the North Wales Wildlife Trust workshops and completing a comprehensive trainee-ship as a Conservation Ranger in 2019. She is currently in her third and final year studying Zoology with Animal Behaviour at University, favouring the conservation and practical management modules. Her current honours project is to investigate the effect of wind direction on the energetic expenses of bird flight, by using the controlled flights of homing pigeons - which hopes to be useful for the conservation of migrating birds in the face of climatic adversity. Her gardening experience includes completing a Horticultural Technician internship at Treborth Botanical Garden, whilst also being part of the Student's for Treborth Action Group committee. Her personal accomplishments include securing external funding for the Healing Garden from Kew Garden's 'GrowWild' initiative, in partnership with the brain injury charity ''Headway', to develop a sensory spiral flower border for therapy, recovery and mindfulness - free to use for the brain injury and local community. She also had considerable input designing the garden to accommodate and benefit the local habitats and wildlife using her experience working with the North Wales Wildlife Trust. With a knack for gardening and illustration, in her free time she paints in gouache for her natural history portfolio. Looking forward, Emily aims to graduate into a local job in habitat management, connectivity of urban green spaces (gardens) or native conservation strategy.

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