David has kindly introduced us, but we (Ceris and I) figured you may also like a little personal hello, and a bit of background as to what has brought us to the Stirling NNR team. My name is Bethia and I will be based across the Stirling NNRs as part of a year-long placement scheme, and therefore can expect to be providing you with regular updates and tidbits on all things NatureScot over the coming months!
Technically a born and bred Yorkshire lass, my heart lies more closely with the Highlands of Scotland. I moved to the Cairngorms as a young teen, and my adolescence was spent wandering the ancient Abernethy forest where, when I wasn’t pondering very important angsty issues, I picked bilberries, dabbled in amateur photography and walked the family dogs.
The idea that I could study animals for a living had me hooked ever since I first watched Mean Girls (because what kid wouldn’t be convinced by Lindsay Lohan cuddling a leopard cub? Oh all right, I suppose David Attenborough documentaries played quite a big part too…). I experienced my first taste of zoology during a summer school week at the Highland Wildlife Park, studied for the grades required to get to university, and set off to Glasgow filled brimming with optimism in a way that only a small-town eighteen year old can be.
I completed my zoology degree, followed by a masters in animal welfare. I developed a keen interest in all things conservation and climate change, gained fieldwork skills such as surveying and species identification, volunteered with various environmental organisations and…hit a long running streak of the postgraduate job hunt (something that seems to have become an unfortunate right of passage for students these days, but that’s a whole other topic) followed by an ongoing dose of global pandemic and national lockdown restrictions just as I landed a job focused on…visitor engagement. Hmm.
So, for somebody who, like so many young people this year, had found themselves in a rather stunted limbo, this role offered the perfect opportunity to throw myself into the ecology and conservation sector. The core focus of the NatureScot placement scheme is to provide a developmental role for people early in their conservation career. Over the next 12 months I will gain a wide range of practical experience in species monitoring, habitat management and reserve maintenance.
I’m excited to learn and to make mistakes, to learn from my mistakes and then make new ones, and to explore a whole new world of bogs, swamps and islands. In a part of Scotland where I’m now constantly wondering how long it will be before I end up waist deep in a ditch, it really is time to get stuck in!