Uni students swap their books for boots to help local wildlife

Undergrads enthuse about their work experience with Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Three university students are taking a year from their studies to gain some hands-on experience of Cumbria’s great outdoors, doing year-long work placements with local conservation charity Cumbria Wildlife Trust. From building dry-stone walls to surveying sea birds and running public events, they’re gaining some invaluable career and life skills.

Jess Cowburn, a Zoology student at the University of Cumbria, recently went on a research trip to The Gambia as part of her course, where she surveyed hippos and had a close encounter with a crocodile! She’s now based at Gosling Sike near Carlisle, Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s new conservation hub in the north of the county. She’s about to start surveying mice and voles for a small mammal project at Eycott Hill Nature Reserve near Penrith - quite a contrast, but she’s loving it: “I joined Cumbria Wildlife Trust because I love nature and the environment, so when the opportunity came up to spend my placement in the Lake District, I couldn’t say no! I am learning so much and I’m hoping it will help me develop not only my skills as a person but that it may help me get a job in conservation. I’d particular love to work in protecting the environment and the animals in it.” 

Oscar Adams is studying Woodland Ecology and Conservation at the University of Cumbria and his work placement is based at the Trust’s head office in Plumgarths. He explains what he’s getting out of the experience: “At uni I’ve learnt a lot of academic and research skills but I was lacking hands-on, practical conservation experience. Within the first few weeks of my placement, I’d been involved with dry-stone walling, building dams on Burns Beck Moss and surveying tern nests at Foulney Island. I have really improved my identification skills of birds, mammals and vegetation and learnt proper techniques for scything, strimming and using other tools. The expertise I learn on this placement will hopefully make me into a good conservationist and help me start a career in this field after graduating.”

Cameron Titorenko is studying Environmental Conservation at Bangor University. She said: “When it came to picking a work placement, South Walney Nature Reserve near Barrow was perfect, with its fantastic grey seal colony and great sea bird populations. As Assistant Warden at this coastal reserve, I’m gaining a wide range of experiences, including working with members of the public who visit South Walney and learning about nature reserve management and wildlife monitoring. I’m also learning how to maintain other kinds of non-coastal habitats across Cumbria, for example at our nature reserve at Latterbarrow, with its mixture of limestone rock, grasslands and woodlands. Working for Cumbria Wildlife Trust is giving me the experience and knowledge of what it means to be a warden on a nature reserve - this will be really helpful in the future.”