Become a “Marine Champion” with the North Wales Wildlife Trust
Eve Grayson, a wildlife conservationist for the North Wales Wildlife Trust (NWWT), shares her experiences working with the trust and offers advice for those looking for a career in conservation.
Eve and the rest of the team based in Anglesey and Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales, hope that all readers will find the motivation and drive to continue protecting our local wildlife through COVID-19 and into the future.
Why did you choose to work with NWWT? And how did you get to the position you are in today?
I previously worked for Lancashire Wildlife Trust and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Working for North Wales Wildlife Trust, I feel I have a strong affinity with the ethos of the charity. The connection between natural habitats, wildlife and people is at the core of our work.
Before I started working on the Living Seas project, I didn’t have a marine background. It was mostly terrestrial, carrying out practical habitat tasks and some ecology work. Whatever job I’ve done, I’ve always strived to be outside and relate to nature in some way.
Working with the public in my previous jobs massively helped by increasing my confidence. Volunteering has also been vital in terms of opening doors and helping me get to where I am now.
What are the main activities in the Living Seas project?
The Living Seas project is a partnership between The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales and North Wales Wildlife Trust, as together our areas cover the majority of the Welsh Coast. It’s a 3-year project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery. We have three focus areas:
Past: Exploring and recording marine memories to learn from the past. This vital information is obtained through conversations we have, and photos shared by the people we meet. We have been working with People’s Collection Wales to collate and publish historical records.
Present: Through a variety of engagement events, from coastal pop-ups to much larger events, our aim is to allow people to discover and enjoy the marine wildlife and to continue engaging with the Living seas project;, this will in turn aid the efforts to protect the marine environment. This part of the project is under my remit, and I get the exciting job of striving to come up with new and exciting ways of getting people to the shore of North Wales.
Future: Working with volunteers, the ‘Marine Champions’, we support the incredible work carried out by people within local coastal communities, whoth arehave been dedicated to caring for their local beach and wildlife. My colleague, Dawn, focuses on this element and organises regular shore search surveys and training days. Not only is she just as committed as our volunteers, but she’s also the glue that helps to bind them together.
Behind the scenes, our Project Manager, Nia, has the hardest job of all:; making sure that the project outcomes are being met, the budget is up to date, and ensuring the project is running smoothly for us to go out and deliver the fun bits! She’s also involved with the policy level of marine legislation, to ensure that we protect our marine wildlife from harm caused by marine development.
What’s the best part of your role with NWWT?
It’s hard to pick one, as there are many, but I love it when someone sees something new for the first time. There have been so many events, including rock pooling and sea watches, in which a creature someone didn’t even know existed appears.
Many people haven’t heard of porpoises or Risso’s dolphins or have never seen a sea hare or a cushion star. It feels so wonderful to share with them an incredible moment which they will never forget.
Do you have any career highlights you’d like to share?
One of my most treasured memories was a trial of the first-ever ‘Risso’s Ramble’ event last October. It’s always a gamble, as you can’t ever predict if you’ll see on the day, what you’ve advertised. The weather forecast was gale-force winds and heavy rain that was due to clear, so we risked it.
We were rewarded with not only a pod of about 12 Risso’s dolphins, who come closer to the coast of North Wales usually during September and October, but we even had sunshine and a calm breeze! With events like this, you’re leaving it to fate whether it works or not, but it feels a real blessing when it all falls into place.
What challenges have NWWT faced due to COVID-19 and what have the team done to keep the projects running?
It’s obviously a very hard time for a lot of charities, as we rely on new members and donations to keep going. We are very lucky that being a funded project, we can continue to carry out our work, but using social media and online resources is our new way of engagement.
We’ve had to adapt to a very different way of working, as we’re used to our main resource and tool kit being the coast, or our portable strandline. We’ve had some very positive feedback from our continued virtual engagement especially from people that don’t live near the sea that now have more opportunities to be involved.
In what ways have the NWWT kept the public involved in conservation through this pandemic?
It’s been tricky as all our events and volunteering activities have been cancelled for some time now. However, it’s been vital to continue to connect with people about what’s been going on at the reserves we manage.
Cemlyn, our coastal site on the north coast of Anglesey has really highlighted this. It hosts the only breeding colony of Sandwich terns in Wales, and many people have truly missed visiting it this year. We’ve ensured that we’ve kept people up to date with what’s going on there, but it’s also been clear that this has been invaluable sustenance for those that have been missing our wild places.
Many families have also been looking for fun things to do in their garden or the local area, and we’ve still been able to provide a range of online resources, delivering talks, quizzes, etc., along with the 30 Days Wild Campaign, in which we encourage and promote people to do a random act of wildness for every day throughout June.
How have you kept such a positive outlook through this time?
This is a unique time in our lives, and I sincerely hope that even though it’s been very tough for many, that we can all learn from it and not resume the fast-paced, consumer-led existence that we, and all wildlife, endured before.
Although I’ve still been working, I’ve also had more time to watch, marvel and be grateful for the everyday moments I once wouldn’t have noticed as much, such as the way a blue tit gracefully peels a sunflower seed whilst on the birdfeeder, or how the scarlet pimpernel flower closes its flower heads at night or when it rains. I would say use this time to really experience and discover what you love about the natural world.
What does the NWWT have in store for the future?
There’s plenty of volunteer opportunities to work in a range of settings, and we’re all hoping to get these opportunities up and running as soon as we can.
Our Wild Coast, another NWWT project which works with 11-24-year-olds in North Wales, runs a Conservation Ranger summer traineeship. The two-week placement helps to give young people a starting foundation of the knowledge and skills required to work as a ranger in a conservation post.
What advice would you give conservation students and job seekers?
The first thing would be to volunteer in whatever ways you can. Find something you love doing, a local bat conservation group, beach cleans, whatever it is. In terms of future employment, this helps to demonstrate that you have a real passion for what you believe in. It’s also a great way to make new friends and explore your local area.
If something is missing in your local area, you could even start your own group, being the glue in your local community. Also contact a local wildlife charity and badger them! Most will be very accommodating and would enjoy having a keen bean to help them, and in return, you’ll likely learn a lot.
Nia, the Living Seas project manager recommends- “You don’t need to head off to some far-flung tropical island to be amazed by the wildlife and creatures that live there. It’s all here on your doorstep, just get out and explore it!”
Any last words of motivation?
I like the words from Carl Safina: “Facts alone can’t save the world. Hearts can. Hearts must. We’re working to make sure that hearts do.”
For more information on other Wildlife Trusts, visit The Wildlife Trusts website. If you’re exploring a career in marine conservation and need more advice, check out our careers advice blog and Marine Conservation Careers Webinar.