I am on the verge of completing a five week placement with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, and the whole experience has been great. Prior to arranging the placement, I had recently graduated with a degree in Biology, but was unsure what career I wanted to pursue. I thought I would enjoy a role in ecology or conservation, having enjoyed all my conservation and environment-related modules throughout University. However, I had little to no field experience to confirm this, or to show to employers as a motivation to hire me. Over the course of this placement, I have become more and more certain that conservation and ecology are the areas of Biology I feel most passionately about, and the sector within which I hope to work.
To gain more experience with small mammals, I have been going out to Wappenbury and Ryton wood each Wednesday to check the nest boxes that have been set up for the Dormouse project. I have learned the correct procedure for checking nest boxes and a bit about nest identification if no mammal is present. Despite starting this project to gain experience with mammals, it has actually increased my knowledge in bird and egg identification, as many of the nest boxes have been commandeered by Marsh Tits and Blue Tits. In my penultimate week, I found one box with Marsh Tit chicks that must have hatched in the preceding seven days, so I hope to find more in other boxes in my last week!
In addition to the nest box checks, I have taken part in mammal trapping in preparation for a Bioblitz day at a local primary school. Through this I was able to learn how to set up Longworth traps, and the correct way to handle any mice, voles, or shrews that are caught. We carried out a trial run to see how many mammals we might catch on the day. Whilst setting out the traps we made bets on how many we would catch, and being a beginner I, of course, lost. Of the fifteen traps we set out, we caught seven mammals; one field vole, and six wood mice! Despite losing the bet it was still an absolutely incredible experience to be that close to Britain’s wildlife – and the anticipation and excitement of seeing a trap with its door closed is not a feeling I will be forgetting anytime soon.
The whole process of this placement has been brilliant; from the ease of arranging it, to how welcoming all the staff have been, and how eager they have been to sort a schedule that is of most interest to me. It has not only shown me that this is the sector I want to work in, but has also given me invaluable skills that I can use in any future jobs. I would recommend the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to anyone interested in ecology and conservation, whatever stage of career planning you might be at.