Wildlife Trust Trainee scheme proves valuable to the future careers of biological recorders & biodiversity alike.

Logo: Lancashire Wildlife Trust

Author: Julia Simons, Biodiverse Society Project Officer, Lancashire Wildlife Trust

There are 12 new and enthusiastic naturalists in the North West following an ambitious three-year biological recording project.

Trainees Molly and Tony survey Sandwich Terns on the Sefton Coast  © Cheryl Knott
Trainees Molly and Tony survey Sandwich Terns on the Sefton Coast © Cheryl Knott

The Biodiverse Society project succeeded in updating knowledge of Local Wildlife Site (LWS) systems through engagement of volunteers, local naturalist groups & provision of wildlife survey training. The provision of year-long traineeships for 12 participants were integral to the delivery of the 3 year project, whilst also being a key outcome and expanding the scope of work that could be achieved. 

The traineeship built on previous successful trainee schemes such as the Marine & Coastal Heritage Scheme (2014-17) that addressed ‘growing skills shortage and a lack of ‘work ready’ individuals for the UK environmental sector (LANTRA 2010)’. The Biodiverse Society traineeships provided successful applicants experience in wildlife surveying, including phase 1 habitat surveys & protected species experience, knowledge of legislation at the local & regional level and awareness of the planning process. 2016 trainee, Catrin Watkin said ‘we’ve learnt so much about the workings of a conservation charity and the importance of all our volunteers. The skills and experience we have gained throughout the year will be incredibly valuable for our future in the conservation sector.’

Trainee Mark Pritchard sharing knowledge with local naturalists  © Brian Jones
Trainee Mark Pritchard sharing knowledge with local naturalists © Brian Jones

It was important that the traineeships be open to all, not just recent graduates or those in the 16 -25 category.   As a result of this, we were able to recruit 3 individuals who were keen to make a career change that didn’t fall into either the graduate or 16-25 category.

The main role of the trainees over the 3 cohorts, was to carry out condition assessments on LWS across Lancashire & North Merseyside whilst also creating biological records and phase 1 habitat maps.   The standard that was expected of them was very high & an intensive 4 week induction ensured that each cohort bonded and supported each other through their learning.   Personal development plans made sure that the individual needs of each trainee was addressed to meet their short-term goals and long-term career aspirations.

A generous training budget supported their continuous learning throughout the year, with trainees attending numerous internal & external training courses. These included courses that would be directly applied to the role such as FSC and MMU Day courses in botany, Great Crested Newt Surveying and GIS. Some courses were attended for personal development such as assertiveness training, whilst others to further their career prospects gaining licences in pesticides, brush cutter & chainsaw. Each gained an Outdoor First Aid certificate lasting 3 years. Trainees were able to gain experience in local, regional and national conservation training opportunities, including strategic and landscape scale wildlife conservation discussions. In 2016 two trainees were able to attend the RSWT (The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts) national conference as ‘future young leaders’.   The conference was part of the living landscapes initiative to explore wildlife in post-brexit reconstruction.

Throughout the year with the project, numerous networking opportunities provided occasions for learning from local naturalists, and partnership working with the Local Environmental Record Centres & Museums. These proved to be mutually beneficial as local naturalists were able to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of recorders, and Local Environmental Record Centres and Museums gained exposure to the wider recording community, enabling better use of their resources & collections to assist in data collection & harvesting.

Johnny Pescod and Mark Pritchard gain hands on training in microscope use  © Catrin Watkin
Johnny Pescod and Mark Pritchard gain hands on training in microscope use © Catrin Watkin

2017 Trainee Johnny Pescod, said: ‘This year has really been a fantastic opportunity for me, both to build up my skills in species ID and working with volunteers, and to meet interesting and knowledgeable people from all over the North-West. Whether walking the green beach at Ainsdale with Dr Phil Smith, or learning about plant natural history with Hilary Bedford, I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people.’

The success of the traineeship can be seen in the eight trainees that secured further employment or voluntary field work within 3 months of completing the traineeship, taking up various positions with Natural England, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, ecology firms and outdoor education companies. 3 of the most recent trainees are currently looking for positions within the ecology sector.

2015 trainees presented with certificates by LWT Chair Steve Garland  © Brian Jones
2015 trainees presented with certificates by LWT Chair Steve Garland © Brian Jones

Achievements for wildlife as a direct result of the work of the trainees are reflected in the 162 Local Wildlife Site condition assessment reports with management recommendations that were delivered to landowners. Over 40,000 biological records were produced for use at Local Environmental Record Centres to inform local and strategic conservation planning. This information has already been used to update the LWS citations, inform decision making on planning applications, extension of Local Wildlife Site boundaries & cited features and contributed to the Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society vertebrate Atlas on the distribution of all vertebrate species in North Merseyside and Lancashire. Community Awareness of the importance of Local Wildlife Sites & their associated wildlife was increased. In addition, trainees were able to survey sites to gather fauna and flora records, with a view to extending existing LWS and enabling the proposal of new LWS, gathering information from these sites to assist decision making in coming years.

The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester & North Merseyside are continually building on these experiences to apply to future trainee schemes. The Carbon Landscape, our latest landscape scale project produced by the Great Manchester Wetland Partnership, is recruiting a number of short and long term work placements over 5 years.   Long term placements will include restoration and connectivity of the landscape, empowering local groups and communities and improving access to the landscape and short term placements will assist the project and research. The advantage of these placements is that successful applicants will get to network with all 12 partners, including Natural England & City of Trees.   The next long term placements will be advertised in May 2018 and will be found at, where you can also keep up to date with the current trainees via their blog or their Facebook page @CarbonLandscapeTrainees.

We also regularly recruit placements for the rest of the organisation including within our Education team. All paid traineeships & voluntary positons are advertised through our website

For more information on the Biodiverse Society Project and its outcomes, please visit or contact Project Manager Joanne Brierley-Moore . For information on traineeships & volunteering at the Lancashire Wildlife Trust please contact our Volunteer Co-ordinator Catherine Haddon both can be reached through 01772 324129.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in association with the National Trust on 12 February 2018

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