By Michelle Payne

My name is Michelle and I am an MscRes student at Bangor University studying primates, my favourite primates being lemurs! I also enjoy writing stories. Studying Zoology and a MscRes at the university has given me plenty of knowledge of conservation, but I wasn’t confident in putting that knowledge into practice hence why I decided to sign up for the Our Wild Coast conservation ranger traineeship at North Wales Wildlife Trust to build up my confidence and learn new skills. The course covered lots of different fields of conservation in North Wales in a short span of two weeks.
The first week we were at Llyn Parc Mawr on Anglesey for four days and at Eithinog nature reserve in Bangor for one day. At Llyn Parc Mawr we learned about the woodland and the unique biodiversity they had, the conservation methods they used to protect their site, bush craft, foraging and making an emergency shelter. I especially enjoyed learning how to ID flora and fauna species (though my eye sight problems meant I couldn’t see a lot of the fauna, being able to start recognising how to identify a tree from its leaf and stalks was amazing). It was also interesting to discuss the positive and negatives of invasive species – for example how sycamore was once considered invasive and cut down, but is now being planted as a similar tree to ash which is being decimated by ash dieback across the UK. During my studies, I have only really heard and discussed the negative affects invasive species had, so the discussion taught me a lot.
At Eithinog we did dead hedging, learned about the grazers that help manage the fields and pulled up ragwort, a species of plant that can be harmful to herbivores if it got into their hay. The second week we were over at Church Island at Menai Bridge, rock pooling and carrying out different shore surveys. We even got to take some shark eggs home to try and identify. Then we were back at Llyn Parc Mawr. We took part in a REC (Rescue Emergency Care) first aid course from and are now qualified first-aiders – which feels very strange to say. We also made bird boxes and put some of the conservation methods we had learned into practice, such as identifying young saplings and pulling up invasive plants.  At the end of the traineeship, we created digital media to share on the North Wales Wildlife Trust YouTube and engage the wider public in conservation and the outdoors.
After experiencing the traineeship, I feel that it’s important that more people experience nature. Not many people know how to identify trees species or know what plants from a woodland are safe to eat. Even from my years at university, I didn’t know these things. There seems to be a disconnect from nature and we need to learn how to reconnect. Learning how to forage is one way, but simply going for a walk and identifying the things you see is another. Even just making a wild space in your garden is a way to connect with nature.