Blawhorn Moss and Flanders Moss, NNRs
National Nature Reserves (NNRs) are used in many ways, but one of the main ways they are extremely important is how they are used for the next generation’s education; allowing people to gain experience to further their careers within the environmental sector.
John McGregor, Environment Lecturer at SRUC Oatridge has something to share on how important the local NNRs support SRUC Oatridge students:
‘Over the past couple of years our Countryside and Environmental Management students from NC, through to HND level have been assisting SNH at Flanders Moss and Blawhorn Moss NNRs with practical conservation projects. These projects, along with working with SNH staff, David Pickett and Amee Hood, help to bring to life some of the subjects that they are studying here at SRUC’S Oatridge campus. It also gives the students real life experience of working on some of Scotland’s high profile National Nature Reserves. It allows our students to network with a potential employer and also find out more regarding the opportunities for undertaking SNH’s internship. This is a unique opportunity open to our students and a partnership that we hope will last long into the future. This partnership has obvious benefits to our students but it also has some benefits for SNH such as the opportunity to see some of SRUC’s top students in a work environment.
The most recent project that our students have helped out with is the installation off anti- slip strips on the Boardwalk at Blawhorn Moss. This was essential maintenance work that was required to ensure the safety of visitors to the site was not compromised. While the skill levels required for undertaking this type of task is fairly basic it is an example of some of the tasks our students could be asked to undertake if they are fortunate enough to gain employment in this sector. It also provided the students with real life experience of working with external partners, of working to strict job specifications and of being out and working in all weather conditions.
Other projects that the students have helped out with include the removal of natural tree regeneration from Flanders moss. This has proven to be very beneficial as it is relevant to the Habitat Management unit our students undertake. During this subject the students learn about the scientific principles which underpin habitat management, one of which is the process of succession. This is exactly what would happen at Flanders Moss if it was not for the hard work that SNH staff and our students undertake. The students have gained valuable skills in the construction of hibernacula: these provide a suitable habitat for Scotland’s only poisonous snake species, the Adder (Vipera berus) to hibernate and again this proved to be relevant to the students ecology subjects that they undertake throughout their course.
Looking to the future the students hope to be involved in the creation of peat dams at Blawhorn Moss. These structures are essential to ensure that the water levels at the site are retained and by undertaking this task not only will our students gain the practical skills required, but they will also enhance the knowledge gained while studying their habitat management module and again bring that subject to life’.