What Next?

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Volunteers of the Bangor University Healing Garden

A few years ago, if you asked me what career I was interested in, I might have said Biological Illustrator. The natural world is so beautiful and a variety of workshops and paid opportunities let me develop my illustration skills down an avenue of educational and conservation focused materials. I have always created art as a method of communicating the natural world – I illustrated an independent project encyclopedia for an A level qualification and I currently fulfill pet portrait commissions of watercolour paintings. I pursued this idea for a while, enjoying the illustration assignments in first year, and painting botanical specimens for the Two Dragons Chinese Garden at Treborth – where I also began volunteering as an assistant Gardener.

Then, I had my fist experience of hands on habitat management within a horticultural environment. My time volunteering at Treborth taught me what a joy first hand cultivation of the natural world can be, and how important a friendly and inclusive working atmosphere is for a successful career. I also manage the Healing Garden student volunteering project, where I applied my volunteer management training to direct the development of the horticultural assets at the garden.

Then I found the North Wales Wildlife Trust, just a 5 minute walk from Bangor town centre, their office features a wonderful wildlife garden, which I also volunteered to cultivate with their committed team. I also found the NWWT habitat management work days were invaluable to my practical skill development, alongside the Conservation Ranger Traineeship, I fell in love with integrating urban green spaces into a habitat connectivity initiative such as ‘Living Landscapes’.

Currently, I feel my career direction pulling towards a localised effort of habitat management in North Wales. I have grown to value the rewilding initiatives, alongside the balance of agricultural landowners and conservationists. I would like to be a part of reconnecting Britain’s habitat landscapes, perhaps as part of the NWWT Living landscapes directive, or for Natural Resource Wales within their flood mitigation projects.

Every day of recent national scale flooding, I think about what my career could do to mitigate urban flooding and reconnect habitats as part of the same solution. Countless initiatives regard afforestation as a beneficial method of reducing lag time of water courses following precipitation storm events – modern forestry activity of felling and clearing does not fit in keeping with this solution, so the next course is to re-establish a native woodland habitat of natural regeneration in valley and upland drainage basins.

Only 2% of the UK’s land mass is covered by ancient woodland due to agricultural centric management demanded by an industrialising population – I would like to be a part of reconnecting these valuable habitats, to create a stronghold for the dwindling populations of UK wildlife.

The living landscapes strategy for Welsh Wildlife Trusts. Green indicates connected habitats, the colour coded map indicates separate Trust project remits.

Native rich marshland, woodlands and grassland are valuable in their own unique ways for conservation focus. However, within almost every module at university, wetlands are emphasised to be a core resource of biodiversity, carbon sequestration and flood mitigation, this conversation is often paired with the reintroduction of Beavers – to re-wild British waterways.

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This is a romantic idea that I wholeheartedly support, and if my career could play a part in meeting such a far reaching and influential goal I would be delighted.

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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