Graduate intake 2017-2018 – our graduate placements…

We are delighted to welcome our third graduate intake for 2017-2018, with the addition of nine new individuals. Over the course of the year, they will be co-ordinating their own projects, and in turn, releasing blogs about progress over the next 12 months.

Eight of our nine graduates enjoying a visit to Stanley Mills. From left: David, Dani, Kirsty, Kirsten, Steven, Tom, Becky and Mairi (and absent, Róisín).

Eight of our nine graduates enjoying a visit to Stanley Mills. From left: David, Dani, Kirsty, Kirsten, Steven, Tom, Becky and Mairi (and absent, Róisín).

On 26 October, the graduates took part in their formal Graduate Induction at the SNH Battleby office. Here they were given the chance to meet each other and learn more about where each of their projects will fit into SNH’s wider aims and values. They will tell us more later.

 A face to the name…

So let’s introduce our new graduate placements and their projects. The nine graduates are currently based at various locations around Scotland:

David Clelland (Clydebank) completed his MSc in Landscape: Integrated Research and Practice at the University of Glasgow. His project focusses on the Learning in Local Greenspace (LiLG) project which aims to facilitate access to quality greenspace for outdoor learning in 100 schools across 10 local authorities, serving the 20% most disadvantaged areas in Scotland. As part of his placement, David has started work on long-term legacy and sharing learning and practice strategies for the project. Additionally, he will be helping to develop resources for the project, visiting schools and drafting action plans.

Dani Hallam (Orkney) studied an MSc in Wildlife Management at Newcastle University. Dani is currently working on the Orkney Native Wildlife Project which aims to ensure that the iconic native species of Orkney are safeguarded for the lasting benefit of Orkney’s residents and visitors. The project is tackling the urgent issue of invasive stoats from the islands. As part of her role, she will be focusing on community engagement and consultation during the development phase of the project and is developing ways to get the community involved in the project. These will include citizen science schemes, and fun and educational activities.

Kirsty Fisher (Battleby) began her career in the SNH National Nature Reserve (NNR) team from an undergraduate degree in Sustainable Development at the University of Edinburgh. Her current responsibilities lie within the Beaver Project. Here, she focusses on communications and guidance in preparation for beavers becoming a European Protected Species. This involves developing guidance on mitigation techniques for land managers and drawing on other countries’ experiences of living alongside beavers with regard to agricultural interactions and potential disturbance activities. Kirsty’s role also involves producing newsletters and other communications designed to give regular updates on news relating to beavers.  For more information on the reintroduction of beavers in Scotland, please see our website or for any queries, please email

Kirsten Brewster (Battleby) completed an MSc in Conservation and Sustainability at the University of Stirling. The aim of her project is to engage farmers with biodiversity solutions. She is particularly interested in new and young entrants to farming and those who typically avoid Agri-Environment Schemes (AES). Over the next year Kirsten will be engaging with farmers directly through interviews, site visits and focus groups. This will culminate in a Sharing Good Practice Event held next year. Kirsten hopes that by engaging farmers and investigating their interest in biodiversity she can use case studies and the power of social media to engage the next generation of farmers in biodiversity solutions, making AES more widely relatable.

Steven Sinclair (Battleby) completed a Masters in Water Hazards, Risk and Resilience at the University of Dundee. His placement project is Year of Young People 2018, and considers how SNH can engage young people in NNRs using co-design. The project will involve the production and evaluation of case studies, which summarises approaches, challenges and benefits of collaborative design with youth groups. Emphasis falls on positively influencing long-term working practice within SNH, partner organisations and youth group leaders. Steven’s responsibilities also include NNR Communications: assisting the Communications team in promoting NNRs as valuable natural sites and engaging people with the benefits they offer for active living, environmental education, conservation and well-being.

Tom McKenna (Battleby) completed his MSc in Ecological Economics at the University of Edinburgh. His graduate project is to develop an evidence-base for a natural capital investment programme. The demand for sound evidence-based investments is increasing: natural capital and ecosystem services become increasingly mainstream and politically relevant while public sector finances are asked to generate more from less. Tom will be responsible for gathering evidence on costs of potential management and investment options and their outcomes, taking into consideration economic benefits as well as non-market values.

Becky Rae (Battleby) completed an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management at the University of Oxford. Her placement focusses on the repowering of onshore wind farms in Scotland. Applications to repower sites are expected to increase as many early wind farms begin to approach the end of their operational lives (c. 25 years). Repowering will typically involve replacing outdated wind turbines with fewer, larger, higher capacity structures. Becky’s role will involve researching approaches to repowering adopted in other countries, as well as making site visits to wind farms in other areas of the UK that have already been repowered. She will also be considering infrastructural challenges associated with repowering (including management of redundant turbine bases and aviation lighting on turbines). The end of the project will see a completed report on the lessons learnt during her research, some of which will be incorporated into SNH’s best practice guidance for repowering onshore wind farms.

Mairi Fenton (Inverness) completed her MSc in Marine Science at Heriot Watt University. She is now working within the Marine Survey and Assessment team. Her main responsibility is working on how SNH prioritise benthic monitoring within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), fitting within the recently published Scottish MPA Monitoring Strategy. She is also assisting with other projects including collating advice for the Loch Carron Nature Conservation MPA consultation and the Priority Marine Feature (PMF) review. Once survey season arrives, Mairi will be out and about with the survey team.

Róisín McLaren (Stirling) completed a BSc in Sustainable Environmental Management at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). Her project will investigate the barriers landowners face to implementing deer management on lowland designated sites. The outcome of her project will be a summary report of current deer issues for each site visited. From this process, Róisín and responsible site leads, will identify which of the sites might be appropriate for an advisory contract (i.e. a contract to write a management plan for the area and carry out a herbivore impact assessment). As part of her role, she will also be carrying out herbivore impact assessments; assisting in thermal imaging counts of deer and assisting active management on National Nature Reserves.

Meet our friendly, enthusiastic, playful new intake of SNH graduates.

Meet our friendly, enthusiastic, playful new intake of SNH graduates.

On the day…

The Graduate Induction provided each of us with an opportunity to think about, and discuss with others, those areas of the organisation we belong to and initial thoughts on any related departments and projects they may be linked to. An interesting exercise: we soon realised how integrated each project could become, and how our respective projects are important to progressing work done throughout SNH. The process was also helpful in identifying areas and teams our work may not quite reach, and therefore lateral thinking – assessing components each project may be missing and ways to achieve those valuable connections.

The morning also consisted of a site visit to the local beauty spot and heritage site of the historic Stanley Mills and river Tay, located 20 minutes from Perth. Starting off the process, we took a moment to familiarise and root ourselves in nature through an emerging practice of guided mindfulness – the rush of the Tay, birdsong and early winter breeze through autumnal leaves, were just some of the delights to connect each of us with Mother Nature.

We were then asked to explore the area, discussing in pairs and small groups, the many aspects of the site’s economic, environmental and social value; how they contribute to Scotland’s natural heritage; who uses the space and, ultimately, how SNH contributes to this work. Coming together, then, as a larger group we explored vital interconnections, thoughts, conclusions and how our projects fit into this work.

The graduates take to small groups to think about and discuss the economic, social and environmental value of the Stanley Mills area.

The graduates take to small groups to think about and discuss the economic, social and environmental value of the Stanley Mills area.

Wrapping up…

After lunch concluded, Battleby-based graduates took the visiting graduates on a quick stroll around the beautiful office grounds – the site of an all-abilities path, wildflower meadow, woodland and landscaped greenspace. The next session of the induction saw us split into two separate groups, then asked to present some of the ideas discussed about natural heritage at Stanley Mills in an unconventional way: no PowerPoint, scrawlings, or bullet points here – poetry, art and drama were some of the encouraged mediums. Group one decided to get theatrical with a people and nature-focussed short play, with exceptional use of props and imagination – much to the humour of those of us watching.

Group one interpreting their conclusions through improvised drama.

Group one interpreting their conclusions through improvised drama

Group two decided to take a more artistic (and bearded) approach to the contributions to natural heritage. The key outcome was to provide a concise summary of the complex connections between nature management, SNH’s work, and personal projects, while encouraging everyone to step outside their comfort zones.

The Induction culminated with short Q&A sessions given by previous graduates Kerrie Craig and Kirsty Fisher about their own experiences –  life after their placements and key tips to make sure each of us achieves the most out of our time from the graduate scheme. Overwhelming take-home points were to exercise enthusiasm to seek out, talk to and learn from other members of staff within SNH; and to take and make as many opportunities as possible.

Overall, the Graduate Induction has been regarded a fantastic opportunity for the graduates to meet, network and foster working relationships: we have already started the process by arranging a graduate trip to some of Scotland’s fantastic NNRs, and thinking about how we will collaborate with one another over the course of the year. Thanks should be given to SNH staff Katrina Marshall, Susan Webster and Matthew Burnett, previous graduate placement Kerrie Craig and current graduate Kirsty Fisher for contributing to the day’s enjoyment, and wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm.

If you are interested in learning more about each individual project, you can keep up to date with progress through this blog and through the Twitter and Facebook pages throughout the year.

Find out about our future graduate opportunities here.

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