Two bogs, a swamp and some islands

Amee Hood is an SNH Reserve Officer for the Flanders Moss, Blawhorn Moss and Loch Lomond National Nature Reserves near Stirling. She tells us about her experience on a student placement, and as a young person within SNH.

Amee at Kilimanjaro Hike National Park.

Amee at Kilimanjaro Hike National Park.

Before I started working for SNH I had the opportunity to do a lot of travelling, which included working abroad in Australia and Canada for many years. It wasn’t until I lived in Canada and worked within the Banff National Park that I decided I would return home when my visa ran out, with a new-found aim of going to college to become a park ranger. I had a clearer vision of where I wanted my career to go.

Snowshoeing in Banff National Park.

Snowshoeing in Banff National Park.

In 2015 I enrolled in a HNC Countryside Management course at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) Oatridge. I found the year very hard: there was a lot of theory. At the age of 26, I discovered I was dyslexic: I struggled with reading and writing and often spent many hours a night fighting just to complete one paragraph. With a large number of essays to write, this eventually took its toll. I had given up a lot to return to full time education including sacrificing a full-time wage so I didn’t want to waste my year. I put my heart and soul into doing well in my HNC and in the end I passed with distinction.

I was told about a student placement scheme run by SNH in partnership with SRUC for students to take a year out from their studies to gain practical skills within the National Nature Reserve team. I had a decision to make: I felt this was a great opportunity to gain more skills and learn in a different way. Moving away from theory, I find it easier to learn by carrying out a practical task as that way I can visualise it a lot clearer.

Within my year’s placement I had great mentors, all unique with different expertise which helped broaden my knowledge. I was allowed to think for myself and carry out my own placement project to get the most out of my year, which saw me carry out: hen harrier winter roosting counts over the three reserves and freshwater sponge surveys at Loch Lomond NNR. I was given the opportunity to gain tickets (certified training courses) which continue being put to good use: I completed my chainsaw certificate, herbicide spraying ticket, brushcutter and strimmer ticket and outdoor first aid training. I was also able to lead volunteer events which helped build my confidence. All of these are great additions to my knowledge and skills base.

Whilst with SNH I also secured a Seasonal Ranger position with Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park to help me through the summer financially, which saw me working a full seven days a week.

It just so happens that when my student placement was about to end the NNR team looked completely different to when I started a year before, moving from a team of three individuals to a single member of staff. I was extremely lucky to be offered a short term contract for three months initially, which was then extended for a further four months. Having had my contract extended another two months; this will see me through to the end of March.

Whilst short-term contracts are not ideal, many organisations are facing these dilemmas due to funding cuts. As a young person, within the conservation and environmental sector, it can often be very difficult to secure a long-term position. I have been lucky to secure work, and have focussed my dedication, and hard work to gaining and strengthening my skills.

I hope to further my career within SNH: I plan to return to the National Park for a second season as a seasonal ranger – as every little bit experience will help further my career.

A student placement is a great opportunity for any young person to get involved, and I would thoroughly recommend it to those who are studying or wish to get real on-the-job experience.

All images © Amee Hood/SNH

Year of Young People 2018 stamp

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