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Placement provides incentive for Elizabeth

A work experience opportunity has paid dividends for a Physical Geography and Geology student, at Edge Hill University. Elizabeth Smith (20), from Bootle, who is set to begin the final year of her degree, undertook a placement with GroundSolve Ltd, having developed a growing interest in the engineering elements of her degree.

Elizabeth Smith commented:-  "It's been good that I've been able to really focus on something I love, and enjoy the variation in areas of study, and I'm able to choose more industry structured subjects. This was partly why I applied for relevant work experience. I contacted so many companies, maybe over 50 and I was fortunate that GroundSolve Ltd. came back to me."

The placement provided Elizabeth with valuable insight into all areas of the business, working on projects in Merseyside and North Wales. She added:- "I have been able to experience what is required of the job 1st hand. I was surprised to find out how much you learn at University is relevant in the industry, and how beneficial it was that I'd used industry based equipment."

A small, independent consultancy established in January 2000, by husband and wife team Mike and Debbie Scott, the set up of GroundSolve Ltd. has already proved beneficial for Elizabeth. Elizabeth added that:- "It means that not only can I do the initial foundation work, and seek out the data myself, I can also then write up and present the results; all as part of 1 job; for bigger companies, 'set' roles are more specific, and less 'hands on.' They really get you ready for the industry."

And coming into a male dominated industry, did being the only female on site prove an issue? Elizabeth commented that:- "I was initially intimidated; although some of that was due to me being so much younger than some of the people I was working with. But, like anything, once you prove you're capable then gender is of no consequence."

And her placement looks to have paid off, with Elizabeth taking up the offer of a further 2 weeks paid work during the summer and has been offered a role with the company upon Graduation, offering to fund her Masters, upon achievement of sufficient grades. Elizabeth said:- "It's such a boost of confidence, that they have belief in me, and has given me a real incentive in my final year."

And what advice would Elizabeth offer others considering following her route? She added:- "I would recommend that every student, over any half-terms or summer holidays, try their best to gain some experience, as you never know what opportunities are around the corner!"

Her dissertation tutor, Dr Rochelle Taylor, also added:- "This work experience has provided her with on site experience in aspects that she will study on the module, placing her in an excellent position to excel."

Help conservationists fill the gap in hedgerow knowledge

THE hedgerows that crisscross our countryside are not only an iconic sight, but a vital habitat and corridor for many of our native species. However, they are becoming increasingly fragmented which is threatening the wildlife that depends on them. So, this August, wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), is launching a new national survey, the Great British Hedgerow Survey, encouraging the UK to health check the nation's hedgerows in an attempt to safeguard the future of this important habitat.

The survey offers instant feedback about the health of each hedge, as well as tailored advice on what type of management will ensure it thrives in the future. The results also provide conservationists with vital data helping build a national picture of the health of Britain's hedges. The survey attracted the attention of BBC Countryfile, and earlier this month presenter Helen Skelton joined PTES' Key Habitats Project Officer Megan Gimber and Dormouse and Training Officer Ian White in Warwickshire, to find out why hedgerows are in need of more wide scale management. They explained what the new survey involves and why PTES is calling for people to take part. The episode will be broadcast on Sunday, 25 August 2019, on BBC1.

Who can take part? The Great British Hedgerow Survey is aimed at:- landowners, farmers, wildlife groups and anyone interested in healthy hedgerows, who are encouraged to complete hedgerow health checks online. Landowners and farmers already assess the health of their hedges to guide their ongoing management, but by taking part in the Great British Hedgerow Survey, they will receive detailed and tailored management advice which will introduce the idea of managing hedgerows in a cycle. For wildlife groups and individuals, the website also provides a handy place to store and display the hedgerow data they collect. Taking part will contribute valuable information to a national dataset that will inform conservation decisions in the future.

Why should we care about hedgerows?  Historically we've lost about ½ our hedgerows since WWII. Although the rates of direct hedge removal have been reduced, we are still seeing the loss of hedgerows simply through the way they are managed.  Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Project Officer at PTES, explains:- "With 70% of UK land being agricultural, hedgerows offer the safest route for wildlife to travel across farmland. Sadly, many hedgerows are becoming gappy, which fragments this amazing network, and without more sensitive management, many hedgerows are at risk of being lost altogether. This is problematic, especially when we're seeing a fall in numbers of the animals that depend on them, such as:- hedgehogs, bats, hazel dormice, and song thrush."

Hedgerows and wildlife facts:-

► 1 study counted 2070 different species in just 1 85m stretch of hedge.

► 55% of the priority species associated with hedgerows are dependent, or partially dependent on hedgerow trees.

► Poor quality, gappy hedges are detrimental to several farmland bird species.

► Since different shrub species flower and fruit at different times, having a wide diversity of plant species extends the flowering and fruiting period. This benefits nectar and pollen feeding invertebrates, and their predator species.

► In Britain, habitat fragmentation is thought to be a limiting factor for the distribution of some species and a threat to the survival of others. Corridors play a vital role in the preservation of a number of species deemed to be 'at risk' from the impact of habitat fragmentation.

► 16 out of the 19 birds included in the Farmland Bird Index, as used by Government to assess the state of farmland wildlife, are associated with hedgerows.

Healthy hedges benefit us all:-

The management advice PTES delivers is based on the lifecycle of a hedge because, like any other living system, they change over time and our management needs to adjust to reflect this. The ultimate goal is to create a thick, dense hedgerow with vegetation all the way to the floor and scattered with hedgerow trees, and it's this type of hedge that most benefits nature, as well as landowners.  Healthy hedgerows reduce soil erosion as well as air and water pollution. They provide forage for pollinating insects, predators to keep crop pests in check and shelter for livestock, reducing deaths from exposure and improving milk yields. Hedges help us fight climate change through storing carbon, and also reduce the damage from flooding.  Megan concludes:- "The importance of well connected, healthy hedgerows can't be overstated, so it's really important to protect them. Ultimately a well connected network of hedges will help our native wildlife to survive and thrive. We hope lots of people will be inspired to health check their hedgerows and find out how they can best look after them both, for wildlife, and for healthy agricultural landscapes."

To take part and/or find out more, visit:- HedgerowSurvey.PTES.Org.

Tune into BBC Countryfile, on Sunday, 25 August 2019 at 7pm, on BBC1, and Tweet along using:- @BBCCountryfile and @PTES, using #HealthyHedgerows.

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