This week’s Jobs of the Wild information is provided by Alexandra Dodds who works as a Seasonal Warden for Natural England on their National Nature Reserves. I met Alex on the National Nature Reserve on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in Northumberland, when she kindly agreed to contribute to Kids of the Wild.

If you love protecting all aspects of the environment and would like to work on a nature reserve, Alex’s advice below will help you decide if it’s the job for you.

National Nature Reserves

England has 224 nature reserves on 94,400 hectares of land – 0.7% of the country’s land. Natural England manages and runs around 2/3 of these Nature Reserves (143), the rest of which are managed by other conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts etc. For a map of England’s nature reserves, see Useful Links below.

Natural England

With over 2000 staff, Natural England is the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England, helping to protect the country’s nature and landscapes within National Nature Reserves (NNRs). Their many responsibilities include conservation promotion and biodiversity protection, enhancing the landscape, assisting biological study, promoting access to the countryside and open spaces, encouraging open-air recreation and environmental management.

Job description

Seasonal Warden: surveying of non-native botanical species, including carrying out the most extensive Pirri-pirri bur survey ever done on the Lindisfarne NNR. Practical habitat management of sand dune system, dune grassland and fenland covering both Lindisfarne NNR and Newham NNR. Livestock management of 30 cattle and 30 sheep on Holy Island involving daily checks of the fencing infrastructure, water and grazing availability, and counting all livestock. Assisting with public engagement events on Holy Island.

Income

£10 to £15k

Qualifications

Qualifications for working on reserves in practical conservation or biological monitoring are job dependant but in general you may need: –

  • Biological degree or qualification in countryside management, or equivalent experience
  • Sometimes just A levels are satisfactory
  • Extra courses or training are beneficial

Experience and extra vocational training can often be more important e.g. Alex has a BTO bird ringing permit which she says can be very useful when applying for surveying/research positions. She has several practical skill qualifications such as brushcutter operation and 4×4 off-road driving, which are very useful for habitat management jobs.

Job training

As above, extra qualifications can help getting wildlife jobs. A lot of Wildlife Trusts put on day courses for identification and surveying or learning a countryside craft skill. See Useful Links below for relevant training courses.

Alex recently became qualified in 4×4 off road driving and trailer towing. She used both of these at work with Natural England, gaining further experience in both skills while she worked. As a contractor, not an employee, she paid for the qualifications herself but some reserves will pay for this sort of training.

Top tips for getting the job

  • Networking
  • Perseverance
  • Gain as much experience as you can within the sector. For example, if I work a contract for three months I will find out what experience, skills or training I can gain whilst I am working and living in that area.

Top tips for doing the job

  • Adaptability/flexibility
  • Being able to cope with anti-social working hours (early morning/late night biological monitoring work) and sometimes sudden call out to work duties such as escaping livestock
  • Ability to work independently as well as within a team – as we are such a small team I’m mostly out on the reserve surveying or checking livestock on my own

Pros

  • I enjoy what I do
  • Gaining more experience/skills in this line of work and learning more about Natural England
  • Networking
  • Paid experience
  • Expanding my knowledge base on site management, sand dune systems and livestock management

Cons

  • Temporary contract is only a few months long so I’m currently in the midst of job hunting again.

Hours of work

Roughly 9 am-5 pm Monday-Friday, sometimes including weekends for event work or checking on livestock including anti-social hours when on Holy Island as we have to work around awkward high tides.

Travel

Not often, occasional travel to other NNRs or to meetings.

Anything else to consider?

As a seasonal worker you need to consider the length of contracts and whether the work involves moving to new areas and finding a new place to live.

Why I love my job

I would rather spend my life working to benefit the environment and all of the species on this planet than just working to benefit one species. I have always been interested in nature and I am passionate about conservation and biological research.

Alex in action on various nature reserves she has worked at

Useful Links

Natural England Govt site

National Nature Reserves Govt site

National Nature Reserves Facebook site

Countryside training courses etc here
(e
.g. craft skills, identification, surveying)

Map of England’s NNRs here

To browse ALL our outdoor jobs in one place click on Jobs of the Wild

Huge thanks to Alex Dodds for providing the photos for this article from her day to day work.