Virtual Training Supports Wildlife Conservation in Lockdown

Budding conservationists across the country are now able to develop vital nature conservation skills throughout the second lockdown without leaving their own gardens, thanks to the work of Devon based nature conservation organisation Ambios and Ufi charitable trust, revealed at the week of VocTech – an event celebrating the best of vocational technology.

With recent research revealing that a quarter of native mammals are now at risk of extinction in the UK, and as second lockdown restrictions disrupt conservation work across the country, Ambios and Ufi are overcoming physical barriers by giving those moving into the conservation sector the opportunity to develop practical skills in wildlife monitoring through virtual learning.

Participants are provided with their own personal survey equipment – a special camera that can be used to capture wildlife footage in a practice known as ‘camera trapping’. Through a series of online sessions walking through camera setup, positioning and data analysis, trainees are able to get hands on experience capturing their own footage within their local area, using the same equipment 2020s wildlife photographer of the year used to capture winning image, The Embrace.

Funded and technically facilitated by vocational technology trust, Ufi, learners are able to review and discuss their findings with professional conservationists via live online training broadcasts, upload their footage for quality assurance and even contribute findings to citizen science networks – from wherever they are in the country.

In light of concerns around the continuing loss of wildlife species, nature conservation is needed now as much as ever, and camera trapping has proved vital in delivering research on how reduced human mobility impacted animals in lockdown, as well as the detection and monitoring of vulnerable species such as hedgehogs and water voles.

This important work is also enabling trainees to develop their practical field skills and enhance their employability at a time where jobs are fiercely competitive.

Simon Roper, Director, Ambios says: “When it comes to learning the ropes of wildlife conservation, there’s no real alternative to getting hands on with the equipment. Our work with Ufi has enabled us to give learners almost the exact same experiences they would receive in person – it simply mitigates the need for people to travel to our training farm to carry it out. This means that we can deliver the course anywhere, even throughout a lockdown, and still achieve the same quality of training”

Rebecca Garrod-Waters, CEO, vocational education specialist Ufi VocTech Trust, says: “Someone’s location shouldn’t have an impact on where they might be in their career in 5, 10 or 15 years. By introducing remote learning options, we have been able to open up the potential for a career in nature conservation to those who may not otherwise have been able to access it. The course provides a perfect example for how digital first learning can make vocational skills development more accessible, flexible and sustainable, both within the nature conservation sector and beyond.”