The Heart of the Chilterns: Volunteers #4 Hazel Boundy, ‘Tracking the Impact’ wildlife survey volunteer
Hazel began her citizen science volunteer experience by spending a year learning butterfly, bird and plants identification and survey methodology with the ‘Tracking the Impact’ project.
She’s now taken on her own kilometre square area where she’s carrying out regular plant and wildlife surveys. As well as bird surveys she’ll survey butterflies once a month, and plants twice in spring and twice in autumn.
We interviewed Hazel on the phone. She has an infectious enthusiasm for the bird life and wildlife of the Chilterns, and a true love of lifelong learning.
She talks about having been a full time mum for many years, then training as a visual artist – not coming from a science background hasn’t hindered her from becoming a ‘citizen scientist’ on this project. Her volunteering role is part of the Tracking the Impact project, part of Chalk Cherries and Chairs Landscape Partnership, which has involved many local people in surveying the wildlife of the Chilterns.
What’s been your role so far as a volunteer?
This is my second year being involved in the Tracking the Impact project. My first year was spent training and I’ve only just started having a square to survey. I’m getting my square up and running and trying to find out who owns what in my square so I can get a nice cross section in my monitoring and working out my transacts (the lines that I’ll walk through my square). You walk from one side to the other for a kilometre then you make another line across it, using the survey methodology that you learn. I’ll be surveying butterflies once a month, and plants twice in Spring and twice in Autumn. You walk 2 kilometres at a time.
What was your previous experience?
I became a member of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), and realised that the research is key to changing things. If you don’t do the research you don’t have the data to make the changes. I heard Nick [Marriner from Chilterns Conservation Board] do a talk for the U3A. He said there was a lot of wildlife but it’s underrecorded. I hadn’t realised how important the recording is. Every single thing we record has weight and these are the first steps we can take to helping our environment. I’m 73 and I’m new to all this. It’s been a steep learning curve, the technology – is isn’t second nature to me.
I’ve not really had a career – I brought up the family (3 boys!). At 40 I decided I was fed up with people running ring around me! I did A Levels and then got married. At 40 I went off to Uni, going like a bat out of hell trying to study and falling asleep over the textbooks. I began to realise that research opens a world. I trained as an English teacher but I was useless at classroom discipline so gave that up and went off and did an art degree and then a Masters in community sculpture.
I think I learn more skills on communication through visual arts that I’d learnt anywhere else before doing this volunteering. I learnt about turning a concept into something visual that will communicate to others. I learnt about talking to people and including people in an idea. In a way this is what you do with the surveying you take a concept and turn it into something that people will understand and do something about.
What have you enjoyed and learnt from volunteering?
I love all of it! There’s no particular bit I don’t want to do – even reptiles that I’m a bit funny about. Particularly memorable was going out in the morning, driving off to Dancersend, my first nature reserve, coming out of the car park at sunrise and there’s goldcrests, marsh tits, all these names and sounds you’ve been listening to in training are suddenly all around you. I drive my family mad now, by always stopping to listen to the birds! It’s with me all the time. It’s like I’ve got new receptors that I didn’t know I had. It’s exciting!
What tips would you give to someone thinking of volunteering but not sure yet?
If you’re thinking about it – do it. You couldn’t have a more friendly and helpful group of people. Everyone is willing you to be out there enjoying. It’s a real environmental force to mark change and I can’t say it strongly enough – it makes me well up – that strength of the enthusiasm. Nobody rams it down your throat that they know so much more than you do. There’s a real sense on this project that you can ask anything – nothing is foolish. There’s a real sense of learning.
Get involved in Tracking the Impact
There’s a wide range of opportunities to get involved, regardless of your levels of experience or the time you have available. You might be an experienced bird watcher or simply a nature or wildlife enthusiast who wants to learn more about Chilterns wildlife and plant life.
Volunteers can benefit from free species ID training from local experts, and support with survey methods and data entry.
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