HELLO! I am Jess Owen and I have just become the Citizen Science in Woodlands Natural Networks trainee with TCV and Forestry Commission Scotland. That is quite a mouthful of a job title! Put more simply, my role is to help people of all backgrounds and abilities to connect to nature through taking part in wildlife surveys and community science projects in woodlands. I am also hoping to help casual citizen science participants progress into regular biological recorders.
My first adventure with this position started in Edinburgh with a weeklong induction with all the trainees from all over the country. It was brilliant to spend a week with lots of nature enthusiasts, or geeks, like myself, learning about what might happen within the next year and how to make the most of this opportunity. The highlight of the week for me was joining some TCV staff in Argyll to plant trees on the mountain slopes, as part of the Trees for Life project. We experienced several seasons of weather in two hours and it was probably the most challenging location I have ever planted on! It was wonderful, I had a real feeling of peace up there planting tiny trees, knowing that they would go on the make a beautiful upland forest, helping to reduce flooding, shelter the land below and increase biodiversity.
In order to teach people about nature, and what nature does for us, I have had to learn a lot of the science behind that. OPAL Community Scientist Amy Styles has had me out, in some serious weather, looking at how different species of lichen indicate different levels of air quality, and how different species of earthworms and different soil types, will affect what plants are able to grow and show us how healthy the soil is.
I was lucky enough to work on Flanders moss, a nature reserve not too far from Stirling, with some volunteers where we were treated to an epic view of a male hen harrier! Smashing! It was so brilliant to see such a rare bird using a place that has been dedicated to nature, proving that if we make more spaces for nature, it will use them and thrive!
I have started to help run some outdoor sessions with a Scottish Autism group from Gartinny Nursery in Coalsnaughton. So far we’ve been on some excellent nature walks where we’ve encountered birds of prey, dippers, long tailed tits, lots of animal tracks and a huge badger sett.
So what have I learnt this month?
I have had a brilliant insight into how conservation organisations work. I have seen how hard staff have to work not just to find initial funding for their community projects, but to then secure that funding for the future, so that all their hard work doesn’t revert back to nothing, or intensely mown council land.
I have been to workshops, talks and meetings with some very inspiring people and learnt some super cool facts about wildlife (much cooler than the phrase ‘super cool’).
I have also learnt that I bloody love lichen! More on this newfound love will be featured in next months blog, which I’m sure you can’t wait for!
Love from Jess!