In 2011, I worked for Powys County Council in adult education as an NVQ assessor for Business and Administration. I really enjoyed working with students, supporting them within their work placements and helping them to realise their own potential and goals in their chosen areas.
I have a lot of respect for people who strive to turn their interests into a career. This left me with a paradoxical feeling that whilst my own interests were in ecology and the environment, my actual job was not. The saying “practice what you preach” pricked uncomfortably in the back of my subconscious.
When I did reflect on the possibilities and asked myself , “What if I could achieve a professional job in the environmental sector?”, it felt like a vast unmapped gulf would open-up between me and my goal, and I was flooded with doubts and fears. I worried that I had no practical environmental skill, no work experience and no training. These fears seemed like a good justification for quelling any further thoughts of “what if ...”!
However, I decided to take my first step and enrolled on a part-time degree course in environmental science with the Open University. I really enjoyed my studies, but at the same time those nagging doubts always flooded back.
In 2012, I moved to Bristol and began volunteering with Avon Wildlife Trust, doing practical conservation work alongside the land management staff team. This gave me a fantastic opportunity to develop knowledge of my new local areas, and the challenges involved in supporting wildlife and looking after varied landscapes across the region. I also developed knowledge of how to manage grassland and lowland meadows through the practical work we did for farmers and other landowners. Through my volunteering, I was able to attend free training days and learnt about fungi identification and woodland management, as well as skills in surveying and monitoring wild plants and animals. I was able to add all these new practical skills and knowledge to my CV.
While Avon Wildlife Trust’s primary focus is on enabling wildlife to survive and thrive across the region, it is also a huge investor in its volunteers - providing us with practical skills and training which not only helped me build my confidence but also my CV.
In 2013 I started a new job as Assistant Scientist at Wessex Water, and I haven’t looked back since! Wessex Water has given me new opportunities to develop within the environmental sector, and I am now working towards becoming a chartered member of CIWEM (Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management).
Last September, I volunteered through Wessex Water’s Water Force staff volunteering programme, to attend a team volunteering day with Avon Wildlife Trust, scything at Hengrove Mounds in Bristol – a local wildlife site which is part of the My Wild City project. My Wild City is focusing on improving eight urban nature sites in neighbourhoods across Bristol, bringing people living nearby closer to the wildlife on their doorsteps. On the day of the volunteering, it felt like I had returned to my roots, to where my initial goal of working within the environment sector had first grown into a clear path for me to follow.
So, here is a big thank you to Avon Wildlife Trust for all you do within our communities, both environmentally and socially.
Find out more about volunteering with Avon Wildlife Trust here.