A day in the life of a Wildlife Trust reserves officer
Across Hampshire & the Isle of Wight, the Wildlife Trust manage over 60 nature reserves. These precious sites are sanctuaries for some wonderful wildlife, including many endangered species.
The charity’s vital conservation work to help nature’s recovery is only possible thanks to the support of its loyal members, devoted volunteers and dedicated staff.
One of those staff members is Sam Martin, an assistant reserves officer who cares for several reserves in the Winchester area, including Hockley Meadows Nature Reserve. Here, he describes how he got into conservation, what his job entails and the best and most challenging parts of his role.
“I joined Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust on a trainee programme four years ago. Before that I was grinding as a waiter while studying for a degree in Environmental Management at the University of Reading. After graduating I pursued as many volunteering opportunities as possible, many of which with the Wildlife Trust, and eventually a job became available.
My responsibilities include managing teams of volunteers, carrying out habitat management, caring for our grazing animals (native cattle, sheep and New Forest ponies), doing species surveys, leading guided walks and talks for the public, and acting as a warden at our nature reserves.
Usually, I’ll leave my home in Southampton at 7.45am and commute to our base in Winchester. One of the great things about my job is it’s super varied depending on the time of year – a typical day as a reserves officer doesn’t really exist.
During summer, for example, I’m carrying out lots of species surveys, warden duties and tractor operations. Moving into autumn and winter, I’ll be clearing scrub and felling trees to improve our special chalk downland and fen habitats. Then, in spring, I’ll be involved with fence building and other infrastructure works.
I generally try to head off by 4.30pm, which lets me beat the traffic and gives me time to catch up on some admin tasks, like emails, at home on the laptop.
The part of my job I really like is working with our amazing volunteers, especially on practical tasks like fencing, which are great team building exercises. Being around our British white cattle is always a joy too – they have great characters!
I’m also incredibly lucky to see some awesome wildlife. I remember staying late one evening with a colleague to treat a lame cow; the sun had almost set and the sky had a dull glow, and we felt a presence nearby – we looked up and a barn owl was effortlessly gliding above hunting for small mammals.
In terms of challenges, weather is the main one as I work outdoors most of the time – the best-laid plans can go out the window if there’s high rainfall, soaring temperatures or strong wind. As a reserves team we’ve not yet sussed out how to control the weather!”
To find out more about local wildlife that Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust are working to protect visit https://www.hiwwt.org.uk