Bethia’s done such a fab job of introducing herself and the placement scheme that I’ll just dive right in! My name’s Ceris, and like Bethia I’ve just started a year-long placement on the Stirling NNRs.
I’ve taken a rather indirect route into conservation. I began with a degree in philosophy and English literature, then went on to work in journalism and publishing. This experience, and time campaigning on gender equality and social justice, led to several years in the women’s sector – but although I cared about the work, I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life sitting behind a desk. I’d loved nature since I was small, dreamt of working outside – but I had a lot to learn. (I still do – the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know…)
I left offices and the city, learnt to drive, and volunteered for conservation organisations alongside freelance work for around a year, before being offered an apprenticeship with Natural England at Lindisfarne NNR, including a diploma in Environmental Conservation. There I began to learn the workings of a reserve, from risk assessments to school events, from site designations to website design. In winter I learned to identify waders and geese by sight and sound, in summer I turned to terns – elegant, garrulous sea swallows.
After my apprenticeship, I volunteered as Assistant Ranger at the spectacular St Abb’s Head NNR. There, I roamed the cliffs monitoring seabirds and other wildlife – when I wasn’t strimming paths, cleaning loos or, on one memorable occasion, standing waist-deep in water, wrangling with eels as I worked to unblock a drain.
In February this year, I got my first ‘proper’ job in nature conservation – but, as for Bethia, and so many others, 2020 didn’t turned out as planned. I enjoyed a brief, beautiful stint as Assistant Warden on Skomer island in Pembrokeshire, but was furloughed in May.
A friend sent me the link to the NatureScot placements (‘Look!’) – I pored over the job description. An opportunity to work on National Nature Reserves for NatureScot – full-time paid work, with opportunities to train and learn and develop skills… I knew nothing of these two bogs, this swamp, these islands… but I liked what I’d seen and read. Well, it was worth a shot.
And now! Now I am two weeks into a year which promises to be full of opportunities to get outside, to learn new things, to share these amazing places with people, and to do my bit to care for them. I’m learning how to walk on bogs (carefully!), and the colours and names of sphagnums. It’s a privilege to be able to see the sites over the course of a year and to get involved with each aspect of reserve management that the placement offers – with some very good teachers. Let the adventure begin…