My name is Alexandra Pond and I am excited to begin my role as a Volunteer Conservation Officer with the Wildlife Trust BCN. I first began volunteering with the Wildlife Trust’s Cambridge Midweek Conservation Group in August 2019, shortly after moving to Cambridge. Growing up in Hawai’i, I developed a keen interest in nature, and pursued my passion for wildlife conservation through my work with the U.S Forest Service in Arizona. Volunteering for the Trust seemed like a great opportunity to learn about the local wildlife, acquire skills in habitat management, and to be involved in helping to manage important wildlife sites in the U.K.
Prior to volunteering with the Trust, I worked on various conservation projects in the U.S. doing habitat restoration, invasive plant management, and endangered plant monitoring. Since moving to Cambridge, I have volunteered for other local organisations such as Cambridge Past, Present & Future, through which I gained experience with hedge-laying and woodland management at their local sites.
In my time volunteering with the Wildlife Trust, I have had the opportunity to carry out practical conservation management tasks at different wildlife sites across Cambridgeshire. For example, I helped remove invasive Michaelmas daisy and Goldenrod plants from Barnwell East Local Nature Reserve. At Adams Road Sanctuary, I waded through the lake to clear overgrown Common Reed to benefit the great crested newts. In doing these tasks, I have begun to learn the proper methods to restore habitat for native flora and fauna.
Throughout this time, I have also learned a great deal about the local flora and the important benefits of managing wildlife sites from the conservation team leader Iain Webb and my fellow volunteers. One of the sites our team has visited over the past several months is the West Pit Local Nature Reserve, where we removed scrub to create more open habitat, allowing native chalk grassland species to thrive. On a visit to the reserve in early March this year, we observed the rare great pignut and moon carrot plant species growing in a recently cleared area. These experiences have given me an appreciation for the natural history of these sites, and I am glad to be able to contribute to the conservation of rare plant and invertebrate species that are found in some of the reserves.
Last September I attended an Introduction to Aquatic Plants workshop offered by the Wildlife Trust and learned about identifying common aquatic plants, survey methods, and the importance of monitoring freshwater habitats. I was able to apply what I learned from the workshop to assist with aquatic plant surveys at Felmersham Gravel Pits where I identified the invasive water soldier plants for subsequent removal. I plan to attend more wildlife training workshops this year to learn more about the natural history of native vertebrates and to be able to apply the concepts from the courses to the practical fieldwork I undertake in my VCO role.
I look forward to helping with species surveys, gaining skills in mammal and invertebrate identification, and getting involved with community outreach events. Given my interest in botany, I am excited to further develop my plant identification skills (grasses in particular!) through habitat surveys and learn how the data informs habitat management plans. With the skills and experience I gain from this VCO placement, I hope to transition into a position that involves the research and monitoring of threatened and endangered plant species that contribute to the protection of wildlife habitats. I am very excited to be involved in conservation work as a Volunteer Conservation Officer with the Wildlife Trust, to learn about the unique wildlife of the region, and share my passion for nature with others!