Students to the rescue!

Silje Boyum, BBC News

Sunderland university student Sarah Khan is challenging fellow students to get wet and wild with conservation and wildlife expeditions.

"It's superb for keeping fit. All my muscles were aching for days after our last outing! Volunteering outdoors can be very demanding and labour intensive. You have to be prepared to get stuck in and dirty with an enthusiastic attitude," Sarah Khan says with a big smile on her face.

Not content with the usual student lifestyle of booze and books, the first year Geography student has started a Conservation and Wildlife Group for fellow Sunderland students who would like to get out and about.

The group's first outing was to Hylton Dene where they helped Sunderland Wildspace Volunteers maintain the reed beds along the river Wear.

"The 48 hours of non-stop rainfall and freezing conditions in the days leading up to the task meant we moved to a different site than originally planned, however, we got a lot of cutting done and had a great day out," Sarah says.

Reed beds are one of the most important habitats for birds in the UK, supporting rare breeds such as the arctic warbler and the bittern.

Learning ancient skills

Sarah can't wait to organise more tasks and hopes more students will realise the opportunities that are available to them through conservation and wildlife volunteering.

She says, "Without the help from volunteers, it is not possible to maintain our local nature reserves. Volunteering is great way to gain confidence, meet new people and see places you never knew about" and is already looking forward to the future.

Sorting out the reed
Sorting out the reed

"Our next event is another Wildspace task, which involves learning the ancient art of willow weaving in order to create sculptures that can be used in children’s playgrounds and in schools.

"It is great to be able to give something back to the community and rewarding to see the difference you make," Sarah says and continues.

"Conservation volunteering is truly relevant experience for anyone studying ecology as part of their degree, such as myself. By taking on tasks and different environments you also gain real-life transferable skills that will be helpful when applying for jobs later on."

"The increasing awareness of environmental issues means job opportunities in the conservation sector is are growing," she adds.

The born and bred Sunderland girl, currently living in Hendon, Sarah is the only one in her family with a passion for greenery.

"My parents are supportive because they know this is what I want to do. I have always wanted to study Geography and get into conservation because it is an area I feel I can contribute to," she says.

Fancy taking part?

If you would like to know a bit more about the Sunderland students' Conservation and Wildlife Group or if you want to join, check out the website below or email Sarah directly.



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