Dreams Really Do Come True

Another year, another round of trainees. And, I finally made the cut! Ecstatic doesn’t even come close to what I am feeling right now. Literally – buzzing.

I have always wanted a career in conservation. There was never another point in my life where I wanted to do anything else. I never went through a phase of wanting to be a Doctor, or a Police Officer or a Vet, okay, maybe I wanted to be a Vet at one point, but that lasted for a week and I think I was about 6…

So right from the very beginning that’s what I set out to do. The day I began making my own choices in life and started to map my future I planned for a life in conservation, particularly for UK wildlife. I wanted to develop myself into someone that employers would want to hire. So, I went to college and got my A Levels, check! I went to University and got myself a (Hons) degree in Biological Science, check! Rightly presumed it probably wouldn’t be enough so then went and did an MSc in Conservation Genetics which I loved, check! Did all the right things, made all the right connections, volunteered overseas in South Africa for a time because that’s what students do (shhhhh) and presumed that would be enough. Right?

South Africa
Image 1: A snapshot of my time working with big cats in South Africa, August 2015.

For me job interviews came and went, as did the jobs themselves sadly. The same thing would always be said to me afterwards, “You’re a good candidate, just lacking the essential experience” or, “Someone else had more experience I’m afraid. Better luck next time?”. Thanks? I guess…

It’s deflating. Takes a chunk out your ego and makes you ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth all the setbacks. So what did I take away from all this? What was it I needed?

Experience. Experience? EXPERIENCE.

So I went out and I tried to gain as much voluntary experience in peatland conservation as I physically could around a very hectic home life. Since I qualified in 2017, I have gone on to balance a job in retail to pay the bills, volunteering to further my career and also having a family – I am now the very proud mother of a wonderful 23-month-old daughter. This has been challenging at times. But it has been doable! I love what I do, I love wildlife, I love conservation, I love restoration and engaging people in environmental issues – the love massively helps!

Little Wooldon
Image 2: Planting on Little Woolden Moss, May 2019.

For 11 months I volunteered as a practical conservation team member at Brockholes Nature Reserve where I obtained several essential skills and experience in conservation land management: scrub clearance, invasive species control (the dreaded Balsam, duh, duh, DUH!), and installing predator fencing just to name a few. I have also volunteered within the Carbon Landscape Project for several months, here, I have gained practical experience at a broad range of sites, including meadows, mosslands and wet woodlands. I have taken part in scrub management, planting key mossland species at a handful of sites, taken part in AQAs and developed my skillset further. Other experience gained has included hedge-laying, rebuilding bunds and carrying out numerous Citizen Science workshops for the Greater Manchester Local Records Centre. Species surveys include willow tit, water voles, bittern, farmland birds and dragonflies. Then, in April this year I decided to take it a step further and become a 2-day-a-week placement for the Carbon Landscape project based at the Wigan Office. I also have taken part in Bat Care workshops with the South Lancashire Bat group and taken on the role of RSPB Pin Badge Fundraising Team Leader for Central Lancashire!

Great Crested Newt
Image 3: Great Crested Newt I befriended at Brockholes Nature Reserve, April 2019.

I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months hold. I want to be out on site as much as possible, working alongside likeminded volunteers and hopefully engaging with more local people to help reconnect local communities with their local greenspaces. I am learning as I go and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you, the reader.

So, I want to use the last part of this post to tell you perseverance can and does pay off MASSIVELY. Look, here I am, now employed within the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, training to work in a field I’ve dreamt of working in since I began walking and talking, okay, maybe not that far back but you get the point! It does happen, it can happen. So listen to me, every knock back, every heart ache. Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Remember that what you’re doing makes you happy. Remember to BELIEVE in yourself and remember to put yourself FIRST at all times.

Profile Picture
Image 4: First day on a new job! August 2019.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in education, and learning about national and international conservation. I learnt such a variety of transferable skills and gained so much knowledge. However, I do wish I pursued the opportunity to get more work based experience alongside my time as a student. It’s only after you qualify and you’re let loose into the big scary world of employment and struggle to get a job you want, that you think back at what you could have done! But don’t dwell. Keep trying, keep working hard.

Because hopefully, one day, you will be sat at a work computer or you might be out on a site, listening to a couple of colleagues whom you love chat and laugh about their families, life and upcoming work related projects, or you might even end up writing a blog post yourself with a smile on your face thinking – damn, I finally actually made it!

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