Rachael Conway
Poll:nation Project Officer

“I have experience of working with all walks of life and all of life’s weird and wonderful possibilities. It has taught me to be less judgemental, more open minded and to see potential in everyone and every set of circumstances…”

About Rachael

When did you start working for LtL and what does your job involve?

It started at LtL in May 2016

I am currently seconded from Butterfly Conservation to deliver the Polli:Nation project in Northern Ireland. I have supported schools to make their grounds more pollinator friendly and inspired children to love nature and learn skills in habitat management, identification and surveying. As a member of Polli:Nation team I have learnt some new skills myself for example generating website resources, designing a research poster for a science symposium, developing an international webinar and creating animations.

The 3 experiences that have best equipped you for this role?

muddy_1_white

My parents gave me and my sisters unending opportunity to explore and play outside. We lived in a remote farmhouse on top of a hill in the Pennines and went on very wild holidays, often arriving in the Highlands late at night with no accommodation (that’s how you did it in the 70’s) readily accepting offers of sheds, barns or dilapidated caravans from locals. My younger life was spent in streams, quarries, peat bogs and disused mills and as a consequence I am adventurous and resourceful. I bring my own children up in a similar way and I want all children to have the thrill of learning life in the outdoors with all its risks, challenges and wonder.

muddy_2_white

For 15 years I worked in the public sector, firstly as a mental health and child protection social worker and then as a lecturer in health and social care. This was the best grounding for any career as I have experience of working with all walks of life and all of life’s weird and wonderful possibilities. It has taught me to be less judgemental, more open minded and to see potential in everyone and every set of circumstances.

muddy_3_white

I moved to Northern Ireland from England 15 years ago. Having lived in London for the previous two years, I found the lack of “things to do” a challenge. I had forgotten how to be that explorative child, immersed in nature with a world of excitement at my fingertips. Driven by need I found myself reconnecting with wildlife in a much more meaningful way, instilling a deep desire to protect it and my interest in conservation grew until I made the decision to retrain, gain experience and finally work in the environmental education sector.

Rachael’s LtL Experience

What has been your best day at LtL and why?

My best day was when my friend (a very good botanist) agreed to help me identify the many wildflower species in a meadow that one of our Polli:Nation schools had developed simply by stopping mowing. We discovered 60 very rare Irish Lady Tresses orchids which had been waiting for 40 years for their chance to come up. I contacted the BBC who ran the story on the 6pm news and it gathered great regional and national interest. The story was even included in the BBC Northern Ireland best news of 2018. I was thrilled that such a simple change to grounds maintenance could deliver such spectacular results, but even more satisfying was the public interest in the story, which gives me hope for the future of our precious wildlife.

Why binoculars, camera and books?

My absolute favourite thing to do is to set off into the unknown and look for things of beauty; birds, wildflowers, invertebrates, fungi, a mossy wall. I often don’t know what I have found, so I photograph it and try to identify it at later date. I enjoy the large scale such as cloud formations or stars and the finer detail. I once spent 1 hour looking at a single 1metre high willow, it was heaving with exquisite and tiny life. I love to introduce others to this extraordinary planet and that is why every minute spent inspiring children is a gift.

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