Here, we speak with conservation and landscape planning trainee Catriona to find out how she’s getting on.
Catriona – Conservation and landscape planning trainee
I was brought up in the Highlands and have always had a keen interest in the natural world and the environment around me. I spent the last two years studying in Norway where they have no shortage of trees and I was inspired by the landscape and the many different ways in which they can use it. I am very excited about the possibility of learning about the landscape we have here in Scotland and how we can promote the regeneration of the forests and woodlands in a beneficial way to both landowners and the ecosystems that should be present here.
What did you know about rewilding before you started at Trees for Life?
I didn’t know the word rewilding but I knew about the concept. It’s something I have been thinking about for a long time. I knew that the land was in bad condition and that current land uses were not sustainable, good for nature or the climate. I knew that we needed to improve it, and to promote a more natural landscape that could be enjoyed by wildlife and people.
How does your role fit into the wider rewilding landscape?
I have spent a lot of time surveying different landscapes. We have looked at the soils, the trees and the impact of animals. I think this is a really good base to look at rewilding as it gives an understanding of what is here now and how it might change depending on different factors. I have also been looking at a site that is still in the planning process to be a new woodland and a place to encourage positive change.
What has been the highlight of your traineeship so far?
A week trip to the Glen Affric Youth Hostel in September. West Affric is an amazing area. It is so open and empty but if you look in the small places hidden from the weather and the animals you can find so much life. I really enjoyed the adventures to get about the area and the beautiful little forests you find at the end. In some of the exclosures are amazing waterfalls covered in ferns and mosses surrounded with small trees trying to grow. Some planted by volunteers and others naturally regenerating. It was a highlight because it shows that even in these places the land is trying to recover and with just a little help it is possible. Mick Drury (Trees for Life Field Projects Coordinator) is an amazing person to be out on the hill with because he has so much knowledge and he is willing to share it while encouraging you to learn and be interested.
Doug Gilbert (Dundreggan Operations Manager) and I have been starting to set up a long-term monitoring plot on the Dundreggan estate. It is very exciting to be involved with this as it’s something that will hopefully be around in hundreds of years to come and will create a clear image of how the forest has changed over time with different land management plans. It is really interesting to learn on the job and to develop ways to survey the site and how best to map the area and the species present to create a base for many years of future data. I think this kind of work is really important to help people better understand how the landscape is affected by change and hopefully it will become a tool for education and inspiration for the next generations to take over.
What has been the biggest surprise?
How widespread Trees for Life is and how important it is to lots of ongoing projects out-with itself. It seems like there are many different parts for one relatively small organisation.
The Trees for Life values are: ground-breaking; collaborative; and pragmatic. How do you see yourself exploring these values through your traineeship?
They are all values that I feel are important aspects of conservation and land management so I am sure I will have plenty of opportunities to explore them. So far, I haven’t really had much of an involvement with planning the work I do, where the values are maybe easier to explore, but the traineeship continues I will get to know them better.
The Skills for Rewilding programme is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.