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Skills for the Future – our halfway update

July 30, 2014

How time flies!  It seems only yesterday that we all looked around the room at each other, sharing that nervous tension of a new beginning as Steve welcomed us to the programme and promised us that we’d be a great team in no time and would enjoy every minute of it.  We needn’t have worried!  6 months on and we are all gaining so much experience and confidence – the transformation is amazing!

So, at the half way point here’s an update from each of the trainees and what we’ve been up to recently:

From the East Dorset Team

Sam and Andy have been busy with tree surveys, including veteran trees – both on Brownsea and the mainland.

Sam has been working with local people, building a bug hotel with children at a wildflower meadow opening event and doing a litter pick at Lytchett Bay, newly acquired land for the DWT as part of the Great Heath project.

Andy has been giving guided tours around Brownsea to both schools and adult groups, pointing out the island’s amazing wildlife – especially the red squirrels! With such beautiful weather recently, there have been plenty of visitors so Andy has been doing a lot of boardwalk repairs. He has had the opportunity to do a lot of surveying including butterflies, dragonflies and moths. He spotted the first White Admiral butterfly of the year on 25th June, and found the first record of Ivy Broomrape on Brownsea.

From the Marine Team

Kimmeridge has been incredibly busy with lots of events and school groups – including rockpool rambles, the Great Dorset Beach Clean and a stand at the Fossil Festival at Lyme Regis (people on Twitter said that their stand was their favourite bit of the festival!). Sarah and Jess have been taking school groups out rockpooling, the children have all been really enjoying themselves at the best rockpooling site in Dorset and even saw a barrel jellyfish!

They’ve been undertaking surveys as part of the Shore Thing Survey which monitors the effects of climate change. This year’s survey has seen big changes since last year due to the big storms, with many more pioneer species including gut weed and sea lettuce.

Plenty of other interesting species have been seen at Kimmeridge – including sea scorpions, Montague’s sea snail, shore rockling and squat lobsters.

The ever-important beach cleans have been occurring. An early spring one for volunteers, trainees and members of the public picked up 230kg of litter! The Great Dorset Beach Clean of Worbarrow Bay collected even more with 610kg of rubbish!

In terms of training courses, Jess and Sarah have been practicing their seaweed ID and are getting the hang of the scientific names. They’ve also been on the MARINElife cetacean and seabird surveyor training, and done some work experience at Bournemouth Oceanarium to see how the big aquariums are run.


From the Mid Dorset Team

Ali doesn't like Himalayan Balsam!

Ali doesn’t like Himalayan Balsam!

Whilst Ali and Sarah may be on neighbouring desks, their training often focusses on different things. Ali has been busy with an invasive plants project which included an event for local landowners and running himalayan balsam bashing sessions with volunteers, and co-ordinating the DWT WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) which has involved co-ordinating volunteers, inputting data and making maps on MapInfo. She has also continued expanding her marine wildlife knowledge, assisting Megan on a seashore event and volunteering at the Little Tern Project at Chesil Beach.


Sarah loves her Great Crested Newt!

Sarah has been visiting a number of farms to assist with the environmental schemes, checking planning applications for where biodiversity surveys might be necessary and doing practical conservation tasks on reserves (including coppicing and scrub clearing). She has been working with the Conservation Team to set up the Barn Owl Project and its Appeal, and helping with community engagement projects. Some of her highlights include the identification workshops mentioned in the last blog post – especially finding a Great Crested Newt!


They do work together occasionally though – doing wildlife surveys including farmland birds, butterflies and dragonflies, promoting the South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership Scheme with a 17mile walk, and local water level monitoring.


From the WeyPort Team

The trainees in the Weymouth and Portland Team have been doing a variety of work. There have been plenty of school groups at both Lorton and Chesil, as well as events including the Little Tern Fundraising Evening and wildlife walks at all three locations (Lorton, Chesil and Portland).

Lorraine interviewed Mark Parsons from Butterfly Conservation about the Richardson’s Case Bearer Moth, has undertaken geohazard risk assessments at the quarries (to monitor the potential for rock falls), and doing video transects on Portland and over on Brownsea as part of a monitoring program.

Megan learns how to ring Great Black-backed Gull chicks

Megan learns about birdringing

Megan has continued to work with school groups, whilst improving her wildlife identification through a training day with Butterfly Conservation, birdringing on the Portland Port breakwaters and moth identification workshops. One of her recent highlights was a trip on the Fleet Observer where she saw Little Terns, the hares of Chesil Beach and other birds including Oystercatchers and a Little Egret. For a more indepth view of a conservation trainee’s experience, why not read her blog? (yes, some shameless plugging going on here)


From the West Dorset Team

Chloe’s time at Kingcombe so far has been full of wildlife, young farm animals and children! Along with teaching school groups, Kingcombe also runs a Kid’s Club about nature – river sampling, looking for mammals and taking a closer look at hedgerow life. She is doing surveys for a range of wildlife – butterflies, dormice, otters, small mammals, moths and more!

One of her highlights has been a bat emergence survey where she saw Great Horseshoe, Common Pipistrelle, Whiskered, Noctule and Serotine bats. In addition, she has been enjoying spring as all the wildflowers begin to bloom, along with the arrival of the lambs and the calves on the farm!


Written by Megan Shersby (Chesil Beach Centre trainee)

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