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Blog: Women in Science Day

Blog: Women in Science Day

by Kate Cartmell-Done

I am a peatland support officer, supporting our peatland project field officers to deliver restoration, and I’ve been in the role here at the North Pennines AONB Partnership for five months. Peat bogs are important because they store carbon and help with other things like slowing the flow of water from the hills to reduce the impact of flooding downstream.

I chose this career path because I love being able to work outdoors and I’m really interested in bogs (oddly), but I didn’t always intend to work in conservation and wasn’t even aware it was an option. It was only really by accident that I ended up doing an apprenticeship in it because I hated doing my A-levels and didn’t want to go to university. I wasn’t even that keen on the idea, but after a couple of weeks I realised it was exactly what I wanted to be doing and that I’d been very lucky to fall into it. My boss encouraged me to try working with the peatland team and the rest is history.

I was an apprentice conservation officer for two years at Cumbria Wildlife Trust where I spent a lot of time working with the peat team getting experience of surveying and restoration, and then I did an undergraduate degree in ecology.

I think the job is unique because we get to see so many different places and work with so many different people. In one week I might visit three or four different sites which could be anywhere in Cumbria, County Durham, Northumberland or Yorkshire so I get to see some great places. We talk to landowners, gamekeepers, farmers and contractors, as well as other conservationists, and coordinate with them all to get restoration work done. This is different from some other conservation jobs where mainly practical work is involved. As part of the role I spend some time flying a drone to capture images of restoration sites which we use to assess what restoration is needed and what impact it has had. Not a skill I thought I’d need!

The best part of my job is going for a lovely long walk in the hills on a sunny day (this is also the worst part when it’s pouring down and freezing!) and seeing sites where we’ve been able to make a real difference, with new vegetation growing and the rewetting of the bog starting to take effect.

My advice would be to get as much experience as possible – I have been incredibly lucky to get my dream job so soon after my degree and it wouldn’t have happened without my apprenticeship. For me, getting some work experience before university was really important for working out what I enjoyed and gaining some confidence, so I would really recommend it.

I know that the work I do in peatland restoration makes a real difference, and I’m actively involved in the efforts to help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions. Working on something that directly helps to tackle climate change is really special.

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