Young conservationists’ careers get off to a flying start following successful internships on Cumbria’s coast

Young conservationists’ careers get off to a flying start following successful internships on Cumbria’s coast

The two interns focused on the marine environment in the North West during a six-month programme funded by The Crown Estate
Image of Lucy Mather left and Dani Cifford surveying grey seals at South Walney credit Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Marine Futures Interns Lucy Mather (left) and Dani Cifford surveying grey seals at South Walney Nature Reserve © Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Lucy Mather and Daniele Clifford have just completed six months’ successful work experience on the Marine Futures North West internship programme, working with the North West Wildlife Trusts, The Crown Estate, Ørsted and Natural England. The programme started in summer 2019 with one part-time, 12-week internship, and was so successful, it has been extended to offer two interns a six-month full-time placement on the scheme.

Lucy from Penrith, a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, and Dani from Shropshire, who studied Environmental Science, gained a wide range of work experience during their internships. This included in-depth research into cormorants roosting on offshore wind farms off Liverpool, finding solutions to guano accumulation that would protect the birds, as well as the structures and staff, and investigating the potential for the restoration of seagrass (the only flowering plant that lives in the sea) in Morecambe Bay.

They’ve also been counting grey seals at the colony at South Walney Nature Reserve, learning how to fly a drone to survey species, working with fishermen to find better ways of disposing of litter at sea, making videos and running live-streaming events, such as virtual beachcombing, and much more.

Before starting the internship in November, Dani had experience of biological research in Spain, as well as managing a marine site for Alderney Wildlife Trust. She was excited to bring her passion and knowledge to collaborative environmental research and community engagement. Dani said: “I have loved every minute of the internship! The opportunity to work with four prestigious partner organisations on interesting and valuable projects has given me unique insights into the marine and offshore wind sectors. I’m passionate about seabirds so a real highlight has been researching cormorants’ use of an offshore wind farm and the problems that causes for the site, in order to come up with innovative solutions which benefit both the birds and the wind farm. There have been so many amazing opportunities to contribute to enhancing the marine environment, Marine Futures really has rounded my experience and kick-started my career, leading to an amazing job in marine conservation.”  

Lucy had worked previously with an engineering consultancy but also enjoyed mountain and adventure leadership. She wanted to return to the outdoors, inspiring people to explore the natural world and connect with nature, and the internship enabled her to do this. Lucy said "Marine Futures has been the perfect experience to get my “foot in the door” of the marine conservation sector and to learn more about the fantastic marine wildlife just off our coast. It has allowed me to work alongside a diverse range of sea users, from wind farm developers and fishing industry representatives to regulatory bodies and community volunteers. This cross-sector experience will be essential for my future role, as sustainable fishing is by nature a highly interdisciplinary topic!"

Both interns are now delighted to have secured full-time jobs in marine conservation, Dani as a Marine Conservation Officer for The Wildlife Trusts and Lucy as Community Engagement Officer for My Local Catch, a sustainable fishing project run by Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

Dr Emily Baxter, Senior Marine Conservation Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts said: “It’s been a delight to work with Lucy and Dani – they grasped every opportunity we gave them with both hands and they have very exciting futures ahead of them in the marine world. They’ve set the bar very high for our future interns! We’re very grateful to our partners The Crown Estate, Ørsted and Natural England for joining us in being able to provide the interns with an incredibly well-rounded work experience opportunity. While the programme has provided an important springboard for the interns’ careers, we also have gained so much from it, not least their enthusiasm, new ideas and insights.”

This year’s new Marine Futures interns, Harry Cale and Beth Churn, will start in May.

The Marine Futures North West internship programme offers a unique opportunity for those interested in a career in the marine environment to gain skills, knowledge and experience across a variety of marine sectors, helping to inform and shape future career opportunities.

Each partner organisation provides opportunities for the intern to develop skills in specialist areas including marine conservation advice, sustainable fisheries, renewable energy development, marine policy, and community engagement.

The Marine Futures Internship is funded by The Crown Estate which manages the seabed around England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as around half of the foreshore. Chelsea Bradbury, Marine Evidence Manager for The Crown Estate said: “The marine environment has a critical role to play in supporting a low carbon future through offshore renewable technologies, and supporting a wealth of biodiversity. With ever-increasing demands on this environment, it is vital that talented individuals, like Dani and Lucy, gain a rounded understanding of the emerging opportunities and challenges, so that they have the skills and knowledge to play a key role in its sustainable development. The Marine Futures Internship is a fantastic opportunity to help achieve this, and it is great to see the interns go on to secure full-time roles in the marine sector.”

The Ørsted vision is a world that runs entirely on green energy. Ørsted develops, constructs and operates offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants, and provides energy products to its customers.

Gavin Scarff, Environment and Consents Manager for Ørsted said: "The Marine Futures internship programme is a fantastic way for those starting off in their career to gain an insight into the challenges and opportunities associated with working in the marine environmental sector. Dani and Lucy have been a credit to the programme, both truly embracing the collaborative, varied and at times demanding nature of the internship. There’s no better measure of their success than to see them securing employment with one of the project partners at the end. The programme is a great example of what can be achieved when organisations with an interest in the marine environment work together towards a common goal and vision, for the better of all of those involved. We look forward to working with Harry, Beth and the project partners once again on the third internship programme!"

Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect nature and landscapes for people to enjoy and for the services they provide. Laurence Browning, Senior Marine Advisor in Cumbria for Natural England said: "Dani and Lucy have both been fantastic interns and a real pleasure to work with. They’ve capitalised on every opportunity given them and it’s a testament to their ability and passion that they’ve both immediately gone on to jobs in marine conservation. I am sure they’ll both go on to make a real difference for the marine environment."

The Internship aims to nurture a diverse and skilled workforce needed to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis and secure a sustainable future for the UK. This internship programme is mostly based in Cumbria and project managed by the North West Wildlife Trusts.