Encouraging the next generation of nature conservationists is important to INCC. Offering student placements, internships and volunteering opportunities helps early career conservationists to get a better idea of the sector and the work involved. Our most recent student placement JESS MARSHALL tells us a little about her experiences so far.
I studied at Cardiff University from 2016 to 2020 and have a degree in Biological Sciences but specialising in Zoology, I took a couple of years out and am now completing my masters at the University of South Wales studying Wildlife and Conservation Management. As part of my course I chose a module where I could gain some practical experience working within a conservation organisation of my choice. I chose the INCC after doing some research of local conservation charities in Wales, and was impressed by the number of projects they have worked on in a fairly short time since they formed in 2018. Having lived in Wales for a number of years, I know how important and diverse the wildlife and landscape is, of which I have experienced during field trips with uni and trips myself, but a lot of it I am still yet to discover. I have always known that I want a pursue a career in conservation, and know that gaining as much practical experience and knowledge will help me fulfil this goal.
For my placement at INCC I am required to invest the equivalent of 60 hours working with the charity, which gives me the opportunity to get involved with a variety of activities for one day a week across eight weeks. So far I have completed four days, firstly being introduced to the main project working with the Marsh Fritillary butterflies, being able to see the caterpillar rearing pens at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and being informed of the ins and outs of the project.
On my second session, I joined a group of volunteers at the community wildlife garden in Garnant, and helped with finishing off building 50 dormouse nest boxes and installing them within the woodlands at Brecon Carreg. This was a rewarding experience as so many nest boxes were installed and will hopefully be used by the dormice in the area. On my third session, I worked from home researching an important potential project that the INCC is interested in pursing in the future. As my study interest lies in genetics and DNA analysis, I was posed with the question of how to survey Cefn Garthenor, which is a farm within the SSSI of Rhosydd Bryn-maen in Ceredigion, using environmental DNA (eDNA) methods. For my masters dissertation I am sampling ditch water within the National Nature Reserves of the Somerset Levels and using eDNA to see whether I can detect the presence of rare water beetles, so this is very relevant to my interests. I was able to produce an information sheet about how to practically approach this project, and how feasible it could be for the INCC to conduct. This will be an exciting opportunity to use new wildlife surveying methods in a real life conservation context, and I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses. Furthermore, for my latest session with the INCC I was able to go to Llantrisant Common, the receptor site for the Marsh Fritillary butterflies, and saw so many butterflies in their natural habitat. This is very promising as it shows how successful the project is in fulfilling its aims to help restore the population of this rare and important butterfly species.
So far, I am very happy that I chose the INCC to complete my placement, as it is so beneficial to see how a real conservation charity works and get involved with the important projects that are currently taking place.