Rachel Todner, industrial placement with Cumbria Wildlife Trust , a charity that is dedicated to protecting wildlife in Cumbria.

Rachel Todner


What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for Cumbria Wildlife Trust, a charity that is dedicated to protecting wildlife in Cumbria. They manage over 40 nature reserves that are spread across all of Cumbria and include a huge variety of different habitats. Their aims are to create and enhance wildlife havens as well as inspire people about the natural world so they will go on to help try and conserve it.


What is your role within the company?


I’m on a student placement with the Northern Reserves team and I help with the management of the reserves. This involves doing many different things, from reed planting to leading work parties of volunteers and guided walks.


Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?


I am also involved in the Red Squirrels North England project where I will be monitoring the squirrel population across the north of England by setting out camera traps and then analysing the footage. It will also involve some community engagement to try and get more people involved with the monitoring of the squirrels.


What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

Since starting I’ve done courses on wildflowers, trees, sedges, grasses and dry stone walling. I have helped lead work parties where we have been tree tube weeding, surveyed wildflower meadows, removed Himalayan balsam, planted plugs and spread seeds on the meadows. One week I’ll be out with the squirrel project putting up trail-cams or looking at hair traps to see if the hairs we have collected are from red or grey squirrels by using a microscope. The next week I might be out planting a reed bed in the wetlands by the office or working with a group of school children on a project they are doing for a reserves event.

I love being out and working on the reserves, especially when leading volunteer work parties. I am enjoying learning more about the practical side of conservation as well as the natural world and am really looking forward to getting fully involved in the red squirrel project.


Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I think the main reason I wanted to undertake a year in industry was to gain work experience in the field I want to go into after I graduate. So many employers are looking for experience now and to work for an organisation like the Cumbria Wildlife Trust is a fantastic opportunity.


What do you think you have got out of this experience so far? 

I have already gained more knowledge about the world of conservation and how to manage different types of habitats. I’ve also learnt more about working in a different professional environment as previously I have only had typical holiday jobs. I have gained more confidence as I’ve been put into new situations and can now cope with these a lot better, for example, I’m now comfortable being in charge of a group of volunteers.


Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

I think a bit of advice I would give to students who are thinking of undertaking a year in industry is to just keep on applying if you haven’t been able to get a placement. I didn’t get my placement until the end of May and I absolutely love it! If there is a place you would like to work there is no harm in sending out speculative letters to them on the off chance that they might be able to create a position for you. Make sure you research what the organisation does so you know what is involved with the placement so you know if you will both enjoy yourself and gain the right experience.