Interning in Ipswich: the start of something good!

Hello everyone it’s Kirsty Wilmot here, with my first blog post for the Trust.

Earlier this month I became one of the Wild Learning Voluntary Interns assisting the Trust in delivering its fantastic programme of educational activities across Suffolk. Luckily for me, this involves working in and around the town I call home, in some of the 500 hectares of public green spaces, which are teeming with wildlife and waiting to be explored. I can’t wait to get stuck in and tell you all about our work in Ipswich, but in keeping with Vicky’s fine introduction last week, first here’s a little about me.

I started life in South London, then rural Surrey, where I spent many a happy afternoon in the garden, picking up some basic botany from my parents who were both keen gardeners. I always loved nature and being outdoors but as my teenage years hit I was affronted by the injustices of the real world and developed an interest in politics, which I studied for 6 years to Master’s degree level. I was always interested in animals and the countryside, so majored in environmental policy, looking at European biodiversity protection and water pollution policies. I really wanted to help influence these policies for the better, so headed to Brussels, then Westminster, to work in parliament.

While working as a parliamentary researcher I witnessed the amazing extent of lobbying activity by the chemicals and plastics industries on the one hand, and the conservation and environmental charities on the other. I knew which side I wanted to work for, so signed up for a part-time diploma in Environmental Conservation at Oxford, to learn more about the science behind the policy. I spent my weekends and evenings learning about natural history, habitat management, the English planning system and global environmental issues. Most of all, I loved learning about ecological survey techniques and the diploma opened up a world of species identification that appealed to my love of categorisation. I clearly couldn’t stop there!

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

After I graduated I visited Suffolk and fell in love with its diverse range of habitats. So I moved to Ipswich and studied a further 2 years for my Applied Ecology MSc at UEA, where I met a fantastic group of budding ecologists and contributed to some fascinating research. From surveying meadows in Hungary for rare Maculinea butterflies, to chasing Orange tips at their range margins in Scotland to explore climatic effects, I loved every minute.

During my course I also analysed dormouse box occupation rates in Bradfield Woods with Simone, the Trust’s ecologist. I felt inspired to contribute to the work of the Trust, and whilst I also volunteered as a Wildlife Watch group leader in Ipswich, sadly paid job opportunities were scarce.  But we had a lot of fun in Holywells Park as volunteers!

Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Up until now, I have only distantly dreamed my day job could involve the natural world, but after 7 years doing community development work, and taking time out to have children, it is time to get back to what I love. Since having children I’ve become really interested in environmental education, so I’m working with Lucy Shepherd – the brilliant Wild Learning officer in Ipswich – hoping to help inspire the next generation of naturalists in Ipswich. I look forward to sharing with you what I’m learning along the way and hope some of you will be inspired to join the team in the future, be it through interning or volunteering. For now, you can find our programme of events in Ipswich on the Trust’s ‘What’s On’ pages here – just search Ipswich Parks and they should all pop up.

Thanks for reading and welcome to our blog