My Experience of NHSN’s Student Award Scheme

From public speaking to important environmental research, Newcastle University Student, Gemma Ball, shares her experience on NHSN’s Student Award Scheme

Over the course of my participation in the NHSN Student Award Scheme, I have been able to develop my knowledge and skills as an aspiring ecologist. After attending several 1829 talks and Friday night talks, I was inspired to become a Student Member of the NHSN to support these educational and fascinating talks. I also visited Gosforth Nature Reserve on a university trip to practice habitat sampling, where I developed an appreciation for the beauty and value of nature there, as well as for the work being done to maintain and improve it. 

While discussing potential dissertation projects with my personal tutor at university, he mentioned concerns raised by some members and visitors of potential pollution being washed into the Whitecroft Burn from the ongoing construction upstream. After discussing this with the director, Clare Freeman, at the NHSN’s AGM in 2023, I decided to design my own research project on the Whitecroft Burn, studying its water quality and ecological condition. It was exciting to feel that my research would benefit the NHSN’s understanding of the Whitecroft Burn, and address an important issue within Gosforth Nature Reserve. 

I continued to attend the Friday night talks, expanding my knowledge on North East conservation activities, a PhD project on different conservation attitudes, and a final year undergraduate project on how moths act as pollinators. Encouraged by the NHSN’s naturalists and volunteers, I decided to share the results of my project at an 1829 talk, especially since my project had close connections with the NHSN. Presenting in front of others interested in nature and conservation was a greatly rewarding experience, and an excellent opportunity to develop the public speaking skills I will need in my future career. 

After logging all of my activities, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had completed enough activities to achieve the highest ‘Ambassador’ tier, as I wasn’t specifically aiming for it, but it came naturally because I enjoy getting involved with the NHSN. I am extremely grateful to the NHSN for providing me with these opportunities, and I encourage any young naturalists in Newcastle to get involved.

Gemma Ball
Student Award Scheme Participant

I’m Gemma Ball, a 21-year-old recent graduate of Newcastle University’s Biology programme. I was born in Watford, England, but have lived in countries across East Asia, with the most recent being Hong Kong. Later this year I will begin my masters in Biodiversity and Conservation at Queen Mary University of London.