Looking back on my internship with the Scottish Wildlife Trust in Ayrshire

It really seems like so much time has passed since my internship with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Unfortunately, my time with the Trust was cut short due to the pandemic but I found what I had learned from this time to be vital when coping with the national lockdown.

I worked on the Connecting Communities to Nature Project, which is kindly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Guided walk at Shewalton Wood Wildlife Reserve, Irvine © Harry Richards

Part of my role as Community Engagement Assistant was to help increase the public’s appreciation of nature. This goal was achieved through a variety of different ways, one of which was delivering a number of different public events, such as a bird box building event. With the help of the Leap Frog Wildlife Watch group leader, I ensured we also had kids’ activities too like making bird feeders.

We also provided education on which type of bird boxes suit different birds, for instance, some birds like robins prefer an open fronted box, whereas, common garden nesters like blue tits and great tits prefer your more ‘classic’ bird box. I enjoyed making up the bird boxes for use on the reserves, particularly these more natural looking bird boxes that I made to sell at the event made out of the non-native sycamore that we have been removing from the reserves. It was really great to see some footage from some of our event attendees of some blue tits nesting in one of these bird boxes!

Helping the public build bird boxes © Harry Richards / Jennifer Wales

During my time with the Trust, it has saddened me how many hours of volunteer time goes into picking up the discarded waste of others. That no matter where we are going for the day, there is always a need to take a few bags and a litter picker as there will always be litter to pick. I hope though, in time increasing people’s appreciation of nature will encourage people to think twice about dropping litter in the countryside.

Tree planting at the Dundonald Burn Meandering project in Shewalton Wood Reserve, Irvine © Harry Richards

During my internship I also led my first guided walk! I planned the event, made posters, conducted risk assessments, and walked the route many times in the run up to the event. I am incredibly grateful to all the people that made the effort to come to Shewalton Wood Wildlife Reserve on a cold, rainy Saturday morning for a brisk walk. I was fortunate to have the support of the Community Engagement Officer, Harry, and the amazing Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers who made the time to come and provide anecdotes of all the fun they have had volunteering over the years!

Tree planting at the Dundonald Burn Meandering project in Shewalton Wood Reserve, Irvine © Harry Richards

I was also excited to be involved with the Meandering of the Dundonald Burn project at Shewalton Wood. By adding in bends to the artificially straightened burn will slow down the flow of the water and allow aquatic plants to grow increasing habitats for species such as the European eel. This project was carried out by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Garnock Connections Landscape Partnership and it was great to be involved in the planting of over 400 native broadleaf trees along the bank of the burn on a lovely rainy winter afternoon.

The most enjoyable part of this experience was the amazing people I have had the pleasure of working with. Working with the volunteers was always my favourite part of this experience, they have taught me what dedication and hard work is. I also got to work with some great community groups like Eglington Growers, a voluntary run allotment that is aiming to provide organic food to their local community. I also got to experience the benefits of partnership working, working with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) to assist in the construction of a community garden and introduce a Health Walk group to some of the Trust’s reserves.

This experience has taught me to always take that time to appreciate nature, that even in our busy towns and cities, while we may not see ospreys, pine martens or wildcats, there is always nature if you take the time and stop to look. I learned so much from working with lots of different people with different areas of interest that I have also found myself interested in things I hadn’t thought much about before. I now enjoy identifying and learning about different insects and fungi as there are so many species and they are such vital components of our ecosystem.

This internship was greatly beneficial to my career development, I have recently started a job as a Geographical Information Systems Assistant where I help with the analysis of ecological survey data on new energy project sites. Working from home full time due to lockdown I have found my daily walks in nature to be an integral part of my routine to keep me connected to nature. I will greatly miss weekday volunteering but I am excited to be able to continue to volunteer with Scottish Wildlife Trust as a leader of the new Irvine Wildlife Watch Group.

Jennifer Wales


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It really seems like so much time has passed since my internship with the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Unfortunately, my time with the Trust was cut short due to the pandemic …

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