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Posted: Sunday 19th October 2014 by OliFoulds

Oli Foulds Derbyshire Wildlife TrustSurveying for great crested newts, Oli Foulds

Volunteering seems to be pretty much vital to getting a job in conservation so I highly recommend putting in the hours – it’s a good way to keep busy post-uni and it will pay off eventually!

 

I’m Oli Foulds, the LEMUR trainee for the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

The LEMUR Project is a Heritage Lottery Funded scheme that provides training placements in UK nature conservation. The project is run by the Herefordshire Nature Trust, in partnership with Sheffield Wildlife Trust and Ambios Ltd, a not for profit training organisation based in Devon. I am one of eighteen LEMUR trainees on a nine month training placement. LEMUR stands for Learning Environments in Marine, Urban and Rural areas and there are six trainees for each of these three settings.

I am an urban LEMUR and my host organisation is the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, where I mainly work with the conservation team. The placements are flexible in that they are tailored to what the trainee wants to achieve, enabling you to acquire a broad range of skills and experience to bulk up your CV in all the areas that are hard to fill in without having already had a job in conservation. Basically it’s an ideal way to get loads of experience and training in nature conservation in a fairly short amount of time while providing you with a training bursary to keep you going!


In case there’s anyone reading this who’s thinking of a career in nature conservation here’s a quick run-down of how I got to this training course:

1. I studied zoology at The University of Manchester.
2. I spent a year in Virginia researching heart function in fish as part of my degree.
3. After uni I started volunteering as a park ranger in the Peak District.
4. I then started regularly volunteering with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust midweek team.
5. I heard about the LEMUR Project from the previous Derbyshire LEMUR trainee while we were working on a nature reserve.
6. I applied for the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust LEMUR trainee position and was offered the placement!


Volunteering seems to be pretty much vital to getting a job in conservation so I highly recommend putting in the hours – it’s a good way to keep busy post-uni and it will pay off eventually! I was sick of academic work after uni and, feeling pretty mentally burnt out, I just wanted to do physical work outdoors for a while. Working with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust midweek team was exactly what I needed and was a great way to get a load of experience in practical habitat management work.

Working on nature reserves through the seasons I discovered how the wildlife changes and what needs to be done to preserve the different habitats (pretty much everything just turns to woodland if you leave it long enough – great for woodland species but not for everything else…). This was vastly different from uni work. Going from a final year dissertation based around the evaluation of software used in genetic analysis to lobbing trees onto a massive fire was definitely a good move. There’s a real feeling of being alive when you’re dragging trees up and down slick muddy slopes in the rain that you just don’t get when you’re sitting in a room at 3am running the millionth set of data through your alarmingly overheating laptop. Every now and then you stop and look around and you’re ankle deep in snow in the woods with a saw in your hand or you’re in a field holding a pitchfork loaded with cut grass in the blazing heat. After a hard day of work out there you feel great! Even if you did lean too close to the fire and burnt off the ends of your eyebrows and eyelashes... The team of volunteers does a fantastic job on the reserves and I was blown away by how hard they work and the amount of time they devote to wildlife. The need for a job, however, meant I couldn’t stick around forever.

So here I am after about a year and a half of volunteering. I’m six months in to my LEMUR training placement with the DWT and I’ve properly started on the road to a job in conservation. I’m visiting loads of sites, meeting lots of people, building up my skills and learning all about how the Trust works. In this blog I’m describing my experiences in the hope that it might help someone who’s considering going into nature conservation but isn’t sure what it entails. Maybe you’ll like the sound of it and want to find out more and maybe not! Either way I hope this is of some interest/use to you.

 

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