Working for the Wildlife Trust - Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark taking a break from a walk along the coast

Ryan Clark tells us how be found himself working on the WILDside Project and why volunteer biological recorders are so important.

I was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, near to the Chilterns AONB. Being outside always played a part in my childhood and, like many children, I wanted to be a vet. As a teenager I started to work out what species we had visiting the garden, it made me relise just how important gardens are for wildlife, and for engaging people with nature. This eventually led me to help set up the garden BioBlitz where people come together over a weekend to take account of the species in their gardens. To this day, I still record species in my garden and have recorded over 600 species there.

While at university my love for monitoring wildlife really look off, and I knew that this was the career I wanted to develop rather than becoming a vet. More specifically, I knew I wanted to work in wildlife conservation in Britain. Abroad they may have large charismatic megafauna, but for me we had equally important and amazing species right on our doorstep, which need protecting.

I worked for a time on protected species conservation (through the planning process) but this was not for me. My real interests lay in the small things that arguably rule the planet; specifically plants, bryophytes and invertebrates. I get a great deal of satisfaction learning about species through the process of identifying them and recording where they are found. I therefore applied to do an internship with Natural England and Buglife studying beetles. I spent a year showing that Blenheim Palace was internationally important for its dead wood beetles. 

Selection of beetles associated with dead wood

Old museum specimens of a selection of beetles dependant on dead wood.

I then was looking for other roles in the biological recording sector and in February 2017, I started as WILDside Project Coordinator at the Northamptonshire Biodiversity Records Centre. There I was very lucky to be involved in supporting volunteer biological recorders. This is so important because the records centre is reliant on volunteer recorders for the majority of their data. An incredible 7.5 million hours of volunteer time go into monitoring wildlife every year in the UK! This project has been a great success; look at our latest WILDside update which will highlight some of our achievements.

One of the Wildlife Trust’s core values is that, ‘Conservation depends on local knowledge and good science’. Through working with local volunteers, staff and researchers, we can ensure that we understand the status of local wildlife and habitats. With this knowledge we can work together to protect them. My huge thanks goes to everyone that has worked alongside me on the WILDside project to make this happen, and to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for funding this work.

Ryan Clark surveying bees

Myself surveying bees.