Landing experience: student interns learn practical and technical skills working hands-on in forestry
Counting voles and ringing bats is all a day’s work for the five ecology interns on placement with Forestry & Land Scotland (FLS) for the next 12 months.
They’re working out in the field during a year’s break from their degree courses, learning new, practical skills and working alongside experienced ecologists and land managers.
The interns are the first-ever intake of ecology interns at FLS, and already, the organisation can see a positive impact from hosting the students.
FLS Wildlife Ecologist, KEnny Kortland, who is supervising two of the interns, said;
“The extra pairs of hands are hugely welcomed by our hard-pressed environment teams and the students bring enthusiasm and energy, and they’re suggesting some great new ideas.
“In turn, we’re giving the students a chance to consolidate their learning.”
The five students are studying at institutions including UHI, SRUC and The Open University. Their interests range from climate change and biodiversity to wildlife management and landscape ecology.
They’re working with FLS regional teams based across Scotland, from Glenmore – which includes a remnant of the Caledonian Forest - in the north, to the Ae Forest in Dumfries & Galloway, in the south.
Fiona Cormie originally from near Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, has lived in Nairn for the last five years. She is studying Forest Management at The Scottish School of Forestry, UHI, and said,
“My favourite part of the placement so far has been helping to conduct the vole surveys in the Cairngorms Connect partnership area. Voles, as well as being extremely cute, are the main prey of many of the predators in the Cairngorms so we gathered evidence to help estimate their population.
“Woodland ecology is what I am most interested in. That is what led me to study forestry. As a practical learner, I have really enjoyed getting to learn the various survey techniques used to find out about species types and populations. So far I have learned how to survey for voles, badgers and otters and have been working to improve my plant identification skills.”
Emily Copas, from Edinburgh, is studying Environmental Science and Geography at The Open University part time whilst working full time in another industry - so going through a career transition. She says,
“I hope to work a job that is physical where I can combine my love of being outdoors with interests such as habitat restoration - peatland, rainforest, native woodland. Working with the environment team at FLS is supporting that plan. I’ve particularly enjoyed learning how to check bat boxes and ring bats and monitoring the soprano pipistrelles in the Trossachs.”
Rossina Parvanova, studying at University of Aberdeen, for an Msci Biological Sciences, said,
“Having the chance to work on the Cairngorms Connect project as part of the placement has given me the chance to see first-hand how the theory I’ve studied during my degree translates into real life conservation, in practice. This has ranged from the field work – vole and pine hoverfly surveys to beetle ID and research – to sitting in on meetings with the Predator Project and the Capercaillie Group, allowing me to see how the different bodies cooperate to achieve our goals.”
I am hoping that the work I do can contribute to will enhance conservation and nature restoration efforts and their effectiveness and that more opportunities will unfold for gain knowledge and skills as the placement continues.
Andrew Beverley, originally from Teesside and now living in St Boswells, graduated this year from SRUC with a BSc Wildlife and Conservation Management. He’s now on placement with FLS, working on landscape enhancement, habitat creation and heritage protection in Kinharvie, near Dumfries.
“I’ve been using a mobile application Field Maps, to help the Forest Planner with marking out boundaries for new features such as ponds which will establish important habitats and ecosystems over the coming years. This experience has given me a good understanding of various roles within Forestry and Land Scotland, how objectives are delivered on the ground and importantly, how study has laid foundations for my work-based learning.”
Notes to editors
Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.