The NHSN Student Award Scheme in action! What are the benefits of being involved?

As many would agree, Gosforth Park Nature Reserve (GPNR) is a natural wonder, providing beautiful scenery and an incredible variety of wildlife. It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I now have the opportunity to help conserve this local gem through enrollment on the NHSN student naturalist award scheme.

The scheme is aimed at those, like myself, who aspire to become a conservationist, ranger, reserve warden or hold any other, similar position in the environmental field. It appealed to me for many reasons, not least because it allows me to gain new practical skills – different to those gained through my degree – but also because it allows me to meet new like-minded people, both young and old, write blogs and articles for publication online, conduct talks and attend a range of educational courses and evening lectures. It also allows me to attend Gosforth Park Nature Reserve whenever I like! All of these experiences and roles have allowed me to diversify my skill set and, I believe, have better equipped me for the future. Because of the scheme, I feel I am in a stronger position to enter into an incredibly competitive career field upon graduation.

Although there are many amazing opportunities to get involved in with NHSN, a few key experiences have stood out so far. One, in particular, was having the chance to plant tree saplings at GPNR – so to aid in the regeneration of woodlands there. This experience allowed me to give back to nature while learning how to correctly plant a tree and keep it protected from wildlife and weather by securing covers and stakes. It also gave me an insight into tree ecology and the habitat preferences of certain species. Something which, studying a marine science degree, was entirely new to me.

One fact which I found particularly interesting was that Hazel trees do not mind being planted in the shade of larger species, such as oak. As it turns out, they grow well in more shaded areas – forming part of the understory, essential to the existence of many other insect, bird and plant species.

Over the coming weeks, I have many other sessions lined up as part of the scheme. These include attending evening talks from a wide range of conservation professionals, a birdwatching course, further visits the Great North Museum: Hancock to look through archived nature notebooks, and a course about setting up and using motion-sensor camera traps.

I hope this brief summary about the NHSN student award scheme and my views as an active participant have inspired you to get involved. If you would like more information about how to apply to the scheme, see here.

I hope to see you all soon!

Steph Donohue, NHSN Student Award Scheme participa studying BSc Marine Zoology student at Newcastle University.

If I were asked to sum up the NHSN student award scheme in a few words, I would have to say that due to the diverse range of important skills you develop and the amazing people you meet by being involved, it is well worth your time and effort. I love the diverse range of opportunities the scheme provides. It is suitable for anyone to get involved with and the framework is flexible so you can tailor the experience to your needs for personal and professional development.