Adventures of a Trainee Assistant Reserves Officer

Starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic is daunting enough, but when that job involves a lot of working outside, training and team working things might seem impossible. Trainee Assistant Reserves Officer Sophie Yeomanson talks us though her experience at the Trust and how the reserves team overcame these problems.

Taking on the role of Trainee Assistant Reserves Officer has been a fantastic experience. The role presented me with a great first step into a career in conservation, an opportunity I am truly grateful to have been offered. Starting a new job in the middle of a global pandemic was daunting, however virtual meetings with the friendly team and online training really helped me to settle in quickly.

Cutting glades to create structural diversity and reduce bramble at Farlington Marshes.

The first couple of days were spent introducing me to all the reserves the team manages. Most of my previous voluntary work experience was in woodland management, so I was excited to learn about methods of managing the mix of habitats across the sites and the species they support. Because of the range of management required, every day at work was different; I was brush-cutting a reed bed one day, then assisting with tree felling and log processing the next. Because of the range of tasks that needed doing, I got to experience using a lot of different tools and machinery and learnt lots of useful techniques.

Log processing at Swanwick Lakes

Log processing at Swanwick Lakes

When it was safe to do so (due to COVID-19), I began leading some of the dedicated groups of volunteers. Having the opportunity to lead and manage conservation tasks is really valuable experience in this field. Not only did it give me practice managing people, but the volunteers themselves provided me with a lot of excellent species and habitat knowledge that they have gained over the years. It was really inspiring and encouraging to see so many people keen to donate their time each week to help support the nature reserves!

Some of my favourite tasks over the summer were walking through the beautiful wildflower meadows completing butterfly transects and getting confident identifying the differences between all the blue butterflies. I also really enjoyed doing livestock checks. Seeing the impact of cattle grazing on the sites and assisting with the work involved with managing livestock, such as herding escapees and assisting with routine TB testing, was a useful and fun experience. Having my coat and wellies licked clean was a bonus!

Brown argus on one of the butterfly transects

Brown argus on one of the butterfly transects

Cows "assisting" with fencing works at St Clair’s Meadow

Cows "assisting" with fencing works at St Clair’s Meadow

Completing wetland bird surveys (WeBS) at Farlington Marshes was another highlight later in the year (despite it typically starting to pour with rain halfway around the sea wall!). Seeing flocks of Dark-bellied brent geese and other wetland birds making use of the habitats I helped to maintain earlier in the year was really rewarding. I loved watching the birds at Farlington, I saw many species for the first time, (including an Osprey) and learnt a lot about how wetland birds use the site and why it is such an important space for them.

I have enjoyed every minute of my time as a trainee, it has been a pleasure working with the solent reserves team and I look forward to what the future will bring!