This summer, Blackdown Hills Natural Futures offered landowners in the Blackdown Hills free wildlife surveys and management advice while training budding ecologists. The trainees, Laura Quinlan, Emily Forbes and Tom Nitti, completed a programme of survey work to develop their skills in wildlife and botanical identification. Over 40 sites were visited, which were mainly woodland and grassland habitats. The training scheme has already seen some fantastic outcomes.
After 4 months attending the training programme Tom Nitti applied for an assistant ecologist position with Devon Wildlife Consultants and was successful in being appointed. Tom's new employer commented "We had an extraordinarily high number of strong applicants and were attracted to Tom's application due to the range of relevant training and experience he had acquired during his to his placement with BHNF. At interview Tom was able to demonstrate excellent botanical identification skills and experience of undertaking a variety of protected species surveys and this combined with his obvious enthusiasm and willingness to learn made him an ideal candidate for the position."
Another one of the trainees, Laura Quinlan, said "as well as in depth botanical identification training, I have had the opportunity to survey bats, dormice, newts and even crayfish, which I would never have been able to do without this project". The trainees also assisted project officer Conrad Barrowclough to compile survey reports to help landowners to manage their sites for nature conservation purposes.
The training scheme will reopen in April next year, so if you're interested in a career in ecology or conservation, you can apply for a place. Some of the surveys are also open to the public, so you can join in just to learn more about the rare species of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and how you can help to conserve them.