Fourth article: The inside view on our environment team

Logo: Canal & River Trust

Canal & River Trust

(Canal & River Trust)
(Canal & River Trust)

We’re the charity who cares for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers. We work hard to make life better by water for communities across England and wales, and one way we do that is by helping nature to flourish.

What is it like to be an ecologist at the Canal & River Trust? We speak to two members of the environment team to find out if life really is better by water.

Caitlin Hayman, graduate ecologist

“I joined the Trust as a graduate ecologist in August 2018. A couple of years before that I volunteered for the Trust’s environment team for about 12 months.

“Doing my work placement at the Trust really opened my eyes. The roles here are so varied, with a strong element of conservation as well as ecology. I regularly work on the Pocklington Canal Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is such a beautiful spot. I feel lucky to be able to spend time in the fresh air.”

Over the last few months Caitlin has been involved with several key projects, including installing bat boxes as part of the Tesco Bag for Life Scheme with West Yorkshire Bat Group and conducting water vole surveys on the Chesterfield Canal.

“Water voles are in decline due to habitat loss and predation by mink. Part of my job is to work with our skilled engineers to find solutions and safe ways to create new habitats for water voles.”

(Canal & River Trust)
(Canal & River Trust)

But Caitlin also very much enjoyed being part of the environment team as a volunteer.

“I co-ordinated seal surveys up at the Tees Barrage. That’s something you really wouldn’t expect to do while working for the Canal & River Trust. People don’t realise that seals can be found on the Trust’s network, but they’re there. We saw 3-4 seals most days.

“The seal surveys helped us to gain insights into seal feeding behaviour, which in turn helps inform the fish-friendly operating scheme we have at the Tees Barrage. We have a fish rule which ensures migrating fish can always pass quickly across the barrage. The Trust is a waterways and wellbeing charity, and it’s so nice that we always work with wildlife in mind.”

Jonathan Hart-Woods, senior ecologist

Jonathan has worked in the Trust’s environment team for nearly 20 years. He joined as a conservation ecologist and is now a senior ecologist, but he has held a number of different roles over the years.

“Canals are brilliant. Working here means you get to see places that most people don’t even know are there, little havens for nature right in the middle of urban areas. And it’s amazing to see how animals use these linear pathways to get around.”

Jonathan joined the Trust thanks to a recommendation from a university friend. Before that he was at the Sports Turf Research Institute at Bingley where he was surveying golf courses and assessing environmental impacts.

(Canal & River Trust)
(Canal & River Trust)

“I have lots of good memories, but probably the most exciting project I ever worked on was the Ribble Link, a new canal which we opened in 2002. I was out on site, working as an operational ecologist. No one had ever done anything like that before, it was challenging and rewarding. A fantastic project with a fantastic team of people.”

“Later I became the main contact for our vegetation contract and worked on a National Tree Programme. I spent a lot of time talking to tree surgeons and it soon became clear that there were gaps in understanding between the tree surgeons and us ecologists. I did some training in arboriculture so I could better understand the situation. That was very interesting as well.

“If you have a career at the Trust you never stop learning.

Every day is different. It’s like a vocation.”Could you be part of our team, working to transform canals and rivers into spaces where local people (and local wildlife) enjoy spending time?  We have professional roles, seasonal roles and volunteer roles available right now. To find out more go to or receive all our latest news, offers and more by signing up to our newsletter.

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