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Can a wetland bring a dead lake back to life?

Can a wetland bring a dead lake back to life?

Find out how PhD student Olly Van Biervliet turned a polluted shallow lake into a thriving, healthy ecosystem using a constructed wetland for wastewater treatment. It now boasts a vast and growing range of biodiversity.

Build it and they will come - just add water!

Build it and they will come - just add water!

A WWT supporter, John, has created a suburban wildlife oasis within his own garden in Gloucestershire. Discover the wonderful features and creatures within the garden, and find inspiration to create your own - by just adding water!

Dr Julia Newth talks Greta, why science needs women and why young women need passion and a strong belief to succeed

Dr Julia Newth talks Greta, why science needs women and why young women need passion and a strong belief to succeed

There are three main things I think a young woman needs to flourish and succeed in a science career: confidence, resilience and a passionate belief in something. And you don't need to be good at science to contribute and make a difference.

'I would love more people to see the amazing world below the surface of wetlands' - My Wild Life with Dr Hannah Robson

'I would love more people to see the amazing world below the surface of wetlands' - My Wild Life with Dr Hannah Robson

Dr Hannah Robson, WWT's Wetland Science Manager, talks catching ducks in your pants, why she loves invertebrates and studying poo in the name of scientific research.

'I want to make wetlands healthier for people and wildlife' - My Wild Life with Dr Ruth Cromie

'I want to make wetlands healthier for people and wildlife' - My Wild Life with Dr Ruth Cromie

Dr Ruth Cromie shares with Waterlife how she finds hope, good health and inspiration in nature and young people, and how WWT is creating ‘nearby nature’ by putting wetlands into the landscape.

How birdwatching helped me through a cancer diagnosis: An interview with Waltraud Englefield

How birdwatching helped me through a cancer diagnosis: An interview with Waltraud Englefield

We caught up with Waltraud Englefield, birdwatcher, nature lover and cancer survivor, to find out more about how immersing herself in nature helped her to deal with her news and improved her health and wellbeing.

Q&A with Reserve Manager, Dave Paynter

Q&A with Reserve Manager, Dave Paynter

I’ve worked at Slimbridge for 38 years. Over the last few decades there has been a shift away from focussing on just a couple of species into managing many more, broader species at our reserves. More people are now aware of conservation and the wider environment. I started my career as a research assistant, studying how wildfowl are affected by disturbance.When I joined WWT, staff roles were more generalist than now, and I used to be more involved in the running of the centre. Now my primary focus is on the reserves management. Our founder, Sir Peter Scott is my conservation hero! He started making wildlife accessible to people and appealing to a wider audience.He spotted that TV was going to be an important way of getting conservation messages across, and his wildlife programmes on TV in the 1940’s were real trailblazers for connecting the general public with nature and spotlighting the conservation issues of the time. I manage and improve the wildlife interests of the site, and get as many people to enjoy it and have great experiences. I’m an expert at finding grass snakes for people to view during our 4x4 Wildlife Safari’s, which explore the wider periphery of the reserve. I’m fortunate in that I’m able to go out to the Russia Tundra every few years to help catch swans and fit them with ID rings and sometimes transmitters, as part of our international monitoring work. A standard day involves conducting surveys, checking hides, feeding swans and helping get the reserve ready for our visitors. Practical tasks vary by season, in summer there is a lot of mowing and strimming, and we also run a 4x4 safari so visitors get to see more of the wildlife at the edges of our site. We liaise with farmers in autumn, coppice trees in winter and maintain the hide walkways and 17km of fencing.In Winter I also do duck decoy demonstrations. Piper, our family dog helps me demonstrate how it works – by using a ducks’ natural instinct to follow a predator, such as a fox to lure them into the decoy.It’s brilliant! I’m not sure I have a favourite season - they are all exciting!I love that they are all different and I always look forward to the next season, and the next set of changes it brings. Climate change and other factors have an impact on our bird populations. It’s important we monitor trends. Some species have declined, such as white-fronted geese, while others have increased, such as golden plover and lapwing. So we’ve changed our habitat management to have more wet grasslands that support waders. I couldn’t do without my Swarovski 10 x 32 binoculars, they are constantly round my neck and I feel naked without them! Top quality equipment is essential for us to carry out our jobs well. Our binoculars are around our necks and our scopes are with us all day so they are part of our work wear, really. In addition to the quality, we find that Swarovski equipment is really robust. Our work to manage the vegetation including mowing, topping and managing brush habitat can be quite physical, so it’s just as well. As part of our public engagement, we help to show visitors the different species on our reserves and many are very impressed with the quality of what they can see. It’s always easier to get folk interested when images are clearer. The extra clarity provided by a good scope is also essential for reading leg rings while bird monitoring. I love feeding the Bewick’s swans in winter. I introduce the individual swans, and discuss how climate change, illegal hunting and lead shot affect wildlife. I like to think that this is when many visitors decide to become members and come back regularly. Paperwork is a necessary evil – an important part of my job, but I prefer to be out there in nature! My favourite wetland species is a black throated diver (on a Scottish lock, in full plumage, in the summer). My greatest achievement is designing and overseeing the construction of the South Lake at Slimbridge. Today it’s one of the best birding spots in the UK as it gives people close-up views of large numbers of birds including the odd rarity. The funniest thing I’ve seen was a warden try to pole vault a channel using a willow pole, only to land flat on his back in the water!

Longstanding Martin Mere volunteer gives us a sneak 'beak' into his day

Longstanding Martin Mere volunteer gives us a sneak 'beak' into his day

The volunteers are WWT’s wings. Without their 1000 volunteers, the charity’s grand ambitions would never be met. One of their current longest serving volunteers is Dave Walsh, 73. He has been helping out at WWT’s Martin Mere in Lancashire for over 20 years. Dave and his wife Estelle, 73, took up an interest in birds when their children flew the nest. Fascinated by migratory birds, Dave would note their movements, becoming a vital asset to the reserve. Now a whooper swan research volunteer, Dave has devoted much of his time helping to monitor the welfare of thousands of birds that spend the winter there. Never a dull minute, here Dave shares what he’s learned over the years. We started around 1994/5. My wife and I began coming here, after our children grew up and left the family home, to take up bird watching. I was fascinated by the migratory whooper swans. Back then, there were also Bewick’s swans as well. We started noticing that some of the birds were ringed and at the back of the Raines Observatory, there used to be a list up of all the swans that had been seen. I was captivated by how some swans were regular visitors here and at other centres. We started taking the numbers down and one day we happened to be in the Kingfisher Hide when one of the wardens saw me noting down the numbers and asked me what I did with them. I said ‘nothing really – it’s just a bit of a hobby’ so he asked if I would let him have them. I made a list so they could add it to their data base. From there on it snowballed. He was keen that we didn’t have uniform on as he said that people would stop and talk to us and that we wouldn’t be able to do our work – ring-reading and researching. This went on until 2007 when Autumnwatch came here and we were approached by Slimbridge who asked us to help identify swans for their team. Back then there were only a couple of us doing it. For a long time it was just my wife and I observing the whoopers. On that particular week there was hardly any swans here. But the second week, they started to arrive and we were interviewed by Kate Humble. Then they realised we needed uniforms. In the winter, my duty - I don’t call it a job – is to go around the reserve and find the flocks of whooper swans and note down any ring numbers and also ascertain whether that particular bird has a mate. Is the mate ringed? How many cygnets have they brought back? Are they the same pair that were here last year? Is it the same mate? My favourite part of the day is from 3pm onwards when most of the swans come back for their feed. It’s the best time for research work as I can see study families and individual pairs and so on. You get to know certain birds. You get to know pairs so if you see one, you know the other will be nearby. Virginia We have one swan in particular that we’re all looking out for. She’s our superswan, a swan named Virginia. We’ve been following her since the year after she was ringed here – that’s over 20 years. We think she’s 26 years old. She hasn’t arrived yet but it’s early days. Sometimes she doesn’t appear until after Christmas. It’s not unusual. She has also been seen at Welney. She was caught and ringed as an adult so we don’t know her exact age. She’s quite a star. She turns up unexpectedly. You’ll be packing up late in the afternoon and she’ll suddenly show up. You think: ‘where the heck have you been?’ Sigrunn is another famous visitor who was first ringed in December 2002. His ring cracked in 2010 so they replaced it and let me keep the old one. Another favourite was a bird called Marty. He was one of the reasons that I got into this. I’d seen him at Caelaverock where he was ringed. He had a partner called Merrytown who had been ringed at Martine Mere. I remember seeing him here in 1997 and the following year I visited Caerlaverock and lo and behold, he came out of the water. They knew him well. A week later I saw him at Martin Mere. When they first started ringing birds here, he was one of the few birds they could recognise without a ring. He was a big bird with a distinctive look. You couldn’t miss him. He flew into a pylon and died in Iceland so that was very sad. I think he would have probably been in his early twenties. He was quite an age when we started noticing him. There was a swan called Ainsdale that we adopted. Quite a few people adopted her. She was one of those birds that you could guarantee you’d see. You can’t always say that. There used to be a couple from Yorkshire that only came here twice a year and they would ask me to point her out so that they could take a photo. One of the main things that I have learned is that there are so many other people involved in this. We can remember Kane Brides (WWT’s Monitoring Officer) coming here as schoolboy. We’ve seen him grow into the man he is now. We’ve learnt a lot from him and he’s learnt a lot from us. I love meeting people and chatting to visitors who show a genuine interest in the migrating swans, especially young people. The number of young people that get involved in it is really impressive. We have a young girl whose parents bought her a decent pair of binoculars and she comes and does ring-reading. I think she must be about six or seven now. She’s not the only one. Lots of other children show a keen interest in the migrations of birds. The older visitors also show an interest. It’s surprising. We used to holiday a lot in Scotland and someone would stop us and say ‘you volunteer at Martin Mere’. It’s been a very enjoyable twenty years. It’s not just about the wildlife, the wildlife connects you to other people. We’ve seen a lot of changes here. We’ve seen the reserve grow bigger. People come and go. The guy that got us into this retired years ago although we still swap Christmas cards. Everyone has been wonderful. We’ve loved every minute of this. Being invited to catches is quite something. Our local news BBC North West Tonight got involved. We fitted tracking devices to some swans and they wanted to name two of them after the two male presenters. They had a competition to see which bird would reach Iceland first. They were very privileged to be allowed to film. I think people would be surprised by how efficient we are at managing wild birds. Humans are potential enemies to them yet we ring and monitor these animals that fly thousands of miles from remote locations in the far north without much issue. My role is important because the more we know about wildfowl the better we can look after them. The successes of ringing and catching birds means we know where they’re going, what route they’re taking, where they’re stopping off so we know where we can help out if there is a problem on the way. We can tell if the birds are healthy. If they started showing up overweight or underweight then we would want to know why. I think it’s very important that we continue this research work because it benefits the birds. Every year is different. What happens in one year, doesn’t happen the next. This place – the whole WWT - is a charity. This duckery behind me is called the WG Harvey Duckery. He was born in my hometown of Bury in Lancashire and his family had a tannery there. They used to take the skin from animals and convert it into material. He left a lot of money to Martin Mere – he left us a legacy. Without people like that and donations from any source, wills, membership, adopting, support from funders like Postcode Animal Trust, a grant-giving charity funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, obviously helps to keep the place going. You don’t realise that people are members for totally different reasons. One day, I was in the playground with my grandchildren on a lovely afternoon and sat next to me were two young ladies with small children. A flock of whooper swans flew over our heads and this lady said to me: ‘Where are they going?’ I told her they were heading for the Mere. Turned out that they were members who lived in Southport and they have never been around the grounds, never seen the Mere. The only reason they were members was because the playground was safe and there was a nice café and shop. They’d been members for over two years. I suggested that they walk around the reserve and see the birds. The next time I saw her she said she had took my advice. No one would believe me. When the kids flew the nest, we sat down and decided that we need to do something together. We took up hillwalking and bought binoculars. We started seeing birds and wondering what was what. It was ballroom or birds, and we chose birds. I used to love seeing the list of birds with the observers marked against them. We had a code and ours was DEW – Dave and Estelle Walsh. They used to put a question mark beside our sightings as we were beginners. Eventually that question mark disappeared. I could give you a boot-full of funny stories. I was in the Swan Link hide - at one point thought to be the largest hide in Europe – and someone asked how the swans got here. One lady replied that we heard them all into a giant aircraft and fly them over from Iceland. People will say: ‘I have a silly question’ but I always tell them there’s no such thing. I’ll always try to answer. Kids ask some of the best and most profound questions. They’re our future. Last year we had a young lad called Jack. He started as a volunteer when he was 16. His real interest was the wild side of the reserve. My wife started mentoring him and he spent all winter with her. He’s now at Bangor University studying conservation. He’ll be another Kane. If you love wildlife, being outdoors and sharing your passion for nature, why not have a look at some of WWT's volunteer roles?

Five things to do in wetlands that can improve your wellbeing

Five things to do in wetlands that can improve your wellbeing

We know, because of our research (and because people tell us) that being outside in nature makes you feel good. Here are five of our favourite ways to get more out of being outside in nature.

How nature can benefit your mental health, and why we need it now more than ever

How nature can benefit your mental health, and why we need it now more than ever

Today, we live in a society where record levels of stress, anxiety and depression are being diagnosed. Mental health awareness is improving, but Mind reports that people are finding it harder to cope with these disorders and so incidents of self-harm and suicide are on the rise. It is vital that we find new ways to support our mental and physical wellness. Increasingly, research points towards our natural world being key. The link between nature and mental health Last year, to make sense of the findings so far, DEFRA commissioned the University of Exeter Medical School to examine the results of lots of individual research projects. The report concluded: There is strong and consistent evidence for mental health and well being benefits arising from exposure to natural environments, including reductions in psychological stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It also reported the link between natural experiences and favourable heart rate, blood pressure, vitamin D and cortisol levels (a stress hormone). The report found that socioeconomic inequality in mental wellbeing was narrower among those who had regular access to green spaces. This highlights the importance of green and blue spaces within our cities. So what are WWT doing to support health and wellbeing? Wetlands are special: we have a natural affinity and desire to be by water whether for relaxation, inspiration or contemplation. Social prescribing We’re working with local health care providers and academics to lay the foundations for a ‘social prescribing’ scheme as part of a natural health service. This is the idea that instead of a clinical prescription, a patient could be prescribed spending time in nature or volunteering. According to Natural England, the use of nature-based health solutions could reduce outpatient admissions by a fifth, save time for GPs, and achieve significant cost savings. It found a return on investment of £3.12 for every pound invested in nature-based healthcare. Overall, by harnessing the restorative power of nature, billions of pounds could be saved each year for the NHS, as well as improving quality of life and health for patients. In our response to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, WWT campaigned for the government to publish a template for local authorities to increase consistency across all of the UK. If adopted, this could help give GPs more structure and guidance on how to work with Third Sector organisations to deliver social prescribing. At our Wetland Centres WWT have been exploring nature’s relationship with mental health for some time. Ged Cassell ran a taster 'blue prescriptions' session at WWT Slimbridge for people facing mental health challenges. The aim was to get their feedback and explore how WWT and other organisations can help people undergoing treatment for mental health issues. Ged says: They were eager to tell us how much better they feel after a visit to Slimbridge, where they can be surrounded by beautiful plants and animals, and where the only sounds are the calls of birds and the bubbling of a stream. Undertaking research WWT Senior Ecosystem Health Officer, Dr. Jonathan Reeves, is working on some exciting research in partnership with HSBC and Imperial College, London, exploring physical and self-reported experiences of being by wetlands as compared with urban and green settings. We will be able to share more on the findings in 2019. Wetlands for communities As part of WWT’s work restoring and conserving wetlands, we’re working on a number of community projects in both urban and rural areas, such as the new wetlands at Enfield. Public Health England says that the design of our neighbourhoods can influence physical activity levels, travel patterns and social connectivity as well as mental and physical health and wellbeing outcomes. It is therefore essential that WWT continues to develop these urban community projects in the UK and further afield. More details of programmes at your nearest centre are regularly updated online.Find your nearest centre

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part three

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part three

Jillian Derbyshire, 62, volunteer I decided to join after seeing a notice in the park. I used to walk through quite regularly as it’s really close to where I live and I used to take my mum there. I got involved because I needed something to do. I was caring for my mum and she passed away. I’d taken some time out for myself and this seemed like an opportunity to take my mind of things. Since we’ve started, the volume of fly-tipping has gone down because they can see it’s being maintained now. We’ve taken a lot of stuff out of the water and I think the idea is that if it looks clean, it will encourage people not to blight it. Often children will pick up on what adults do and follow suit. We have a lot of parks – proportionally we have a lot of park space which is totally underutilised. You don’t see people playing, and for me I just want people to use the parks just for the freedom of it and the luxury of it rather than it just go to waste. As a child, the pond and streams in Salthill itself, you could go pond dipping, collect sticklebacks, newts and water boatmen. We did a water survey a while ago and there is no longer the diversity in the water and children no longer do it. Apart from the fact that everyone says: ‘you can’t go down there, you’ll get wet or you’ll get muddy’ which is frustrating because it’s what kids should be doing. A lot of people don’t use the park because they say it’s a dangerous place. If we are out there and people are working in the park to improve it and we show people it’s ok, it’ll encourage people. Even if they don’t get involved in the project themselves, they won’t think of it as a dead, vacant space that nobody cares about. To be physically involved in the project, makes you notice the little things. The other day I said to another volunteer: ‘I haven’t seen that egret for ages’ and just by sheer chance, he spotted it. Before this project, I wouldn’t have had anyone to say this to nor would I have noticed its patterns. Then you start wondering about where it’s nesting etc. It gives you that extra connection. You start to pick up knowledge. In Slough, which is a town, there is still quite a lot of diverse wildlife. But there used to be more and it would be great to get it back. People think of Slough as being very urban but we do have the park space. They are not pokey parks – they are very big. We take for granted what we’ve got. We were lucky that the Victorian business men of the day, who made their money, bequeathed us the parks. I think we’re a good example because we are really a very small group. Most of our work is carried out on one Saturday a month and we have achieved a lot. The amount of work we’ve carried out is amazing. You don’t have to give up masses of your time to make a significant difference.

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part two

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part two

John Hook, 63, volunteer, Slough I first got involved after noticing a poster on the park railings. I’d been retired for six months and I’d always told myself I wasn’t going to start volunteering for anything until I’d had half a year to myself. Six months and one day later, I saw the poster. I also saw a kingfisher that day and took that as a sign. I’ve always been interested in wildlife and nature. I’ve been a member of the WWT and RSPB for more than 20 years. The opportunity of getting involved in any conservation work right on my doorstep was just like a great big open door. It’s just the sort of thing I really wanted to do, to contribute in some small way. I just love the idea of making anything natural more wildlife and people friendly. It would be so easy to get depressed when you look at what’s happening internationally and knowing how the environment is suffering so badly. Yes, you can make your financial contributions to organisations that can help relieve the problems internationally but if you can get up off your backside and do something little locally, that’s rewarding in itself. I find that whenever I’m walking through the park that it’s now become second nature to me that if there are beer cans or bottles thrown on the paths or around the park, I’ll pick them up and put them in the bin. Not that long ago I would have thought I was fighting a losing battle, but now I think that if there is anything I can do to slightly improve it for the next person who comes along, then I’m blooming well not fighting a losing battle. If you feel that you’re making a difference, albeit a small difference, in your own little corner, it’s its own reward. I know how therapeutic greenspaces, flowing water, still water, in its broadest possible sense, I know how good it is for me. I want other people to know how good it is for them to have contact with a little bit of wildlife, a little bit of nature right on your doorstep. So many domestic gardens have been concreted over to accommodate extra cars and what not. Children notice birds, plants, flowers in their local wild spaces that they might never see otherwise. I was born in Somerset but I’ve been in Slough since 1990 so I’ve lived there for 27 years. It’s a little project that is set up in a big place like Slough with 20 loosely connected volunteers. It would be lovely to think that something similar could happen in other towns the same size or smaller.

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part one

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Slough part one

WWT has been working with the community in Slough to restore its Salt Hill Stream. We talked to three of the volunteers who have been working hard to clean the area. They revealed to us why they want their wetlands back and how the project has awarded them with new friendships and fresh perspectives. Today, Daniel shares his thoughts. Daniel Bardouille, 55, volunteer I was in the park one day and noticed a guy with a net fishing for dead fish and he asked me if I’d be interested in helping out. There was a lot of pollution in the stream so I told him I wouldn’t mind having a go. In September 2014, I went to the first launch. They had this vehicle with different types of aquariums containing different types of fish, invertebrates and insects that they were planning to introduce back into the Salt Hill Stream. It seemed like a really good thing to do and since then I’ve been hooked. I’ve been out of work for some time so I thought I needed to do something that had nothing to do with signing on. I thought it would be a good thing to do off my own back. It was an outlet for me to do something independent. It’s empowering. I can come and go. I’m not told to come in and clock off. I wanted to broaden my horizons and meet new people and learn from other people’s experiences. You can see something every day and not realise it’s precious. People come up and thank us for what we’re doing. It’s a great sense of reward. You can’t beat it. Without the stream, Sloug h would be boring, dull and there would be less colour. It would be unimaginable. To have a wetlands where children can go, where people can go is invaluable. Kids find out more about wetlands and wildlife on school trips and when they’re outdoors compared to when they’re in the classroom. When I’m going somewhere, I’d rather go through the park because it’s a friendlier place. People on the roads don’t have time to say hello, but in the park, you’re in a different time zone. You can hear the songbirds, the water running. I can always gather my thoughts. It’s pleasing on the eye and ear.

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Colombo

World Wetlands Day: A countdown from Colombo

The city of Colombo grew out of a group of fishing villages around a wetland. Today, these wetlands cover more than 15% of the total area of the Colombo Metropolitan Region. They protect the city from flooding and help mitigate climate change.

Our volunteer Daniel Modley talks about life on the Steart Marshes

Our volunteer Daniel Modley talks about life on the Steart Marshes

WWT’s 1000 volunteers are the backbone of the charity, without them, the scale and reach of the charity’s conservation work would not be possible. Daniel Modley, 32, volunteers at Steart Marshes in Somerset where he examines invertebrates as part of his animal conservation degree. Here, the former Royal Navy medical assistant tells us about swapping the open sea for scientific study on the wetlands. My practical day volunteering begins with meeting the staff at the reserve office to chat to them about what has been sighted at the reserve during the week. Tasks for the day are set, which can include hedge maintenance or stock fencing to creating drinking bays for the herds of cattle which graze at Steart to keep the meadows in optimum condition for wildlife. It’s always nice to visit different parts of the reserve. I particularly enjoy tasks such as clearing ponds while wearing waders and up to your waist in water. It is physically demanding but also quite satisfying at the same time. I enjoy going to parts of the reserve that are off limits to the general public, where you can easily be distracted by the bird life around. I am a novice with bird species, but definitely keen to learn more. We get a fantastic range of birds here. We got the spoonbill feeding at Otterhampton marsh the other day. Over the summer, there has been an explosion of avocet chicks. We’ve had seven pairs successful breed. When I first started out here two years ago there was just one pair down by the breach. That’s a record for Steart. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful place like this literally on our door step. Just a few years ago the reserve was arable farmland. So much has changed and so much is possible. I lived locally in Somerset until I turned 17 and left to join the Royal Navy where I served for five years as medical assistant, stationed in Portsmouth with a stint at Arbroath. I’ve had quite a diverse career so far. I wanted to train to be a nurse when I left the Navy however I felt as time passed, I wanted a complete change in direction. I have always loved the natural world, as I’ve got a bit older I’ve increasingly become more interested in ecology, so not just an organism, but its relation and place within the physical world. When I was in the navy, I never imagined I’d be taking samples and studying the presence of invertebrates in the Steart marshes. Life is strange. This period shaped me into the person I am today. Military training gave me a strong work ethic and taught me that team work is essential. People working together as a team can achieve great things. My military life has also given me the strong determination to succeed. When I first started, I had no idea about the different species of birds at all so it was always going to be a big learning curve for me and I’ve still got a long way to go. With my research project, I’m picking up stuff every week. You learn something new every day especially at Steart from staff and volunteers who have a wealth of knowledge about birding and butterflies. I have learned how to carry out surveys on water vole and butterfly transects. I also assist with the monthly otter surveys here at Steart. It’s amazing that they are present. It’s a key indicator that there is an abundance of food resources for them here. I would love to see one but I haven’t been that lucky yet. The smell of otter spraint (poo) is quite pleasant! But it can be disgusting if you misjudge a spraint, take a good whiff and get it wrong! Your nose becomes accustomed to the otter scent after a while. Steart has its own microclimate so you have to be prepared for all weathers. You quickly become an expert in predicting what’s going to happen. You can roughly tell how many minutes the rain will last by looking at the clouds rolling off the Quantocks. I normally get quite muddy while collecting data for my project which isn’t really surprising when working on the intertidal area! However, the practical jobs themselves are very satisfactory, I spend some of my spare time at the reserve and it’s nice to walk past parts and think: ‘we’ve accomplished that.’ The opportunities are endless. I’m hopefully going to volunteer on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel at Easter, helping with the puffin and grey seal counts so looking forward to that. I am so grateful for the opportunity to volunteer here and for the support from the members of staff and other volunteers, since I’ve returned to education. I’m a mature student but if I get stuck on something one of the wardens will keep me right. Tell me what to look for, or what information I need. I am also thankful for the awards from our supporters including our big funders like players of People’s Postcode Lottery who help us see through our conservation work. If I wasn’t on my course I would still be volunteering. I love it. There are around 60 volunteers here and I’m proud to be one of them. The most rewarding part of being a volunteer at Steart is that with every task, you are making a difference, whether that’s enhancing the visitor experience or managing habitats for wildlife which in turn will provide food or shelter for wildlife thus giving biodiversity a helping hand. Putting theory into practice is the best kind of learning. I am extremely grateful for the support of all the staff based at Steart, I feel that I have grown in confidence since first becoming a volunteer in June 2015. I am grateful for the training days and the volunteer thankyou days. I feel very appreciated. This is what I find fascinating - a few months ago, I wasn’t that interested in invertebrates but now I have completely changed my mind. Without the invertebrates there wouldn’t be the birds that use the reserve to feed. Conservation work starts off small! Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps train and equip Daniel and our other volunteers to provide the best possible conditions for wildlife to flourish at our Steart Marshes reserve and our others reserves and helps enable our visitors to enjoy and learn about wetlands and their wildlife.