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County Wildlife Site Trainee Scheme

Devon Biodiversity Record Centre (DBRC) annually hosts long-term volunteer trainee placements.  These placements provide motivated individuals with an opportunity to gain experience in habitat survey, botanical ID, landowner liaison, ecological report writing, data management and GIS (MapInfo). The trainee placement scheme commenced in 2011 and as such we are entering our sixth year in 2016.

The trainee placements are centred around DBRC’s County Wildlife Site (CWS) monitoring project. There are approximately 2,200 County Wildlife Sites (CWS) in Devon supporting an array of habitats and species. The trainees will therefore have the opportunity to become familiar with many of Devon’s most significant wildlife habitats.

This role is highly suitable to individuals who wish to work in the ecology and conservation sector, and want to increase their expertise and field experience.

Each placement is a 6-12 month unpaid structured training placement for four days per week.  The volunteers are based at the DBRC office, though spend much of their time in the field.  Initially, volunteers shadow DBRC staff and then gradually take on more responsibility until ready to conduct independent site visits, first as a two-person team and then potentially as individuals.

Day to day tasks include:

Identifying sites using aerial photos & OS maps
Finding and contacting landowners
Preparing for surveys
Surveying CWS (using various habitat classification criteria including Phase 1, National Vegetation Classification  (NVC), Integrated Habitat System (IHS) and Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats
Managing the survey data (using software such as Recorder database and MapInfo GIS system)
Evaluating the survey sites against County Wildlife Site Criteria
Providing both written and verbal advice to landowners
Help organise training days and attend training days
Public engagement involvement e.g. assisting at "Helping hands for heritage" events
Opportunities to help with ornithological projects

The closing date for our 2016 CWS trainees has now closed but we will be recruiting again in March next year.

Bea_lambI have really enjoyed my time at DBRC, particularly the field survey work; spending a summer wandering around some of the best habitat in Devon and looking at plants is my idea of heaven! I feel privileged to have received such amazing training in botanical skills from experts and I now feel confident in identifying hundreds of different plant species. It was not only botanical knowledge that I gained from the field work, but also identification of birds, butterflies and insects and how to find evidence of mammals. I also obtained valuable experience in report writing, habitat classification, GIS mapping and landowner liaison. I would recommend the County Wildlife Site Trainee Scheme to anyone, thank you DBRC! Belinda Ayres (CWS trainee 2015)

Alex_surveyingAs a CWS trainee I had to learn fast, the learning curve was steep, but it is impossible not to be enthused when spending your week exploring the wonderful habitats of Devon and the botanical treasures found within. Initially focusing on honing plant identification skills, mapping sites and being able to recognise the vegetative communities found within each habitat, I subsequently started to provide more assistance in the office, developing the ability to write detailed survey reports and provide management advice tailored to each individual site. By the end of the survey season my skills had grown to the point where I was confident enough with the entire process to organise and complete a survey on my own.As well as this I was also able to get involved with a diverse array of other projects. These included surveying for new colonies of water vole, surveys of reptile and amphibian species on Devon Wildlife Trust reserves and the monitoring of land use on parish audits.

As my time as a volunteer came to an end I was lucky enough to be offered a paid contract, on which I was responsible for managing species data, helping with various GIS projects and providing ecological consultants with data searches. Alex Worsley (CWS trainee 2013)

Ed_in_reedsMy time as a CWS trainee has been wonderful. Not only have I thoroughly enjoyed myself being outdoors and surveying beautiful County Wildlife Sites throughout Devon, but I have gained a huge amount of key experience in the ecological sector.

I’ve learnt so much this year through shadowing experts who always had the time to help and explain things, be it: the key ID features of a species; the best way to write CWS reports; or how to use GIS.

My skills in botanical ID, habitat classification, landowner liaison, GIS, report writing and data management have greatly improved and I now feel ready to take the next step and enter the world of ecological consultancy.

I feel lucky to have had this opportunity to work with and learn from experts every day in such a beautiful part of the country, and would recommend the placement to anyone looking to gain expertise in the ecological/ conservation sector.
Ed Walker (CWS trainee 2014)

“The CWS trainee placement was an invaluable opportunity to gain experience in a competitive sector. I have learned a huge amount and really enjoyed participating as a valued member of the DBRC team”

Sam Davies (CWS Trainee 2011)

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