Wildlife partnership between charity and university pays dividends

Wednesday 7th February 2018

Pictured:L-R Head of Department of Science, Natural Resources and Outdoor Studies Dr Elspeth Lees, environmental scientist and international conservationist Sir Martin Holdgate, University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Prof Julie Mennell and Cumbria Wildlife Trust Chair Peter Woodhead.

A review of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the University of Cumbria and Cumbria Wildlife Trust has praised the partnership and called for a further agreement to be drawn up.

The three-year plan began in 2014 and pulled together informal links established between university staff and the charity. The initial aim was to provide learning placements for undergraduate conservation and wildlife media students but this expanded and resulted in postgraduate students also making use of the Trust’s nature reserves and staff.

The report highlights how the professional development of staff has benefitted from the agreement through ‘mutual working and cross-fertilisation of theory and practice.’ Cumbria Wildlife Trust pays tribute to the presence of students who it’s claimed have ‘contributed a huge amount to a two-way learning process deriving from practical conservation work.’

“This link has brought significant benefits to students and staff at the university who have been able to make the most of the wealth of experience and expertise on our doorstep,” Dr Elspeth Lees, head of the university’s department of science, natural resources and outdoor studies, said. “We’re delighted Cumbria Wildlife Trust have welcomed this association and we look forward to closer working in the future.”

This is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at cementing the university’s position as a leading centre for outdoor study. In September 2017 the university’s new Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas was launched with the aim of providing a research hub for the UK and international national parks.

“So many good things have come out of this partnership between the Wildlife Trust and the University, it is really difficult to select just one event or activity,” Peter Woodhead, Chair of Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Conservation Committee, said. “For me, a highlight would be hearing one of the conservation students talk about her block placement experience to her fellow students and tutors: she was eulogistic about the total experience and the practical conservation skills she had gained. These had helped to ‘make sense’ of much of the theory work she had learned in the academic programme. She followed this by returning to the University for her final year to obtain her degree.”