St Andrews Green Corridors: giving nature a helping hand
Last month, we spoke to Aisling Wallace, the newest member of the Environment Team and Transition University of St Andrews, about her role in managing the St Andrews Green Corridors project. Read on to find out what the project is, why it is important, and how you can get involved!
Welcome, Aisling! What is your job role and when did you start at Transition/Environment Team?
My role is Ecology Project Manager/Ecological Projects Officer and I started in March this year (2020). It has been an interesting start to my new role, as I started the day COVID-19 was declared a pandemic! So, I have been embracing working from home and engaging with the Environment Team remotely. My role is to implement a new biodiversity project, called ‘St Andrews Green Corridors’.
What is the Green Corridors project in a nutshell?
St Andrews Green Corridors is a new, collaborative biodiversity project between St Andrews Botanic Gardens and the University of St Andrews. The project has been funded through the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) ‘Biodiversity Challenge Fund’ and will run until March 2021. The objective of the project is to increase biodiversity and promote habitats along two habitat corridors within the town; Kinness Burn/ Lade Braes corridor and the North Haugh/ Swilken Burn corridor. The project aims to achieve this by developing a volunteer network, engaging with schools and community groups, engaging with landowners and developers and also working with Fife Council.
What most excites you about Green Corridors?
That the project is so aspiring; it is about grass roots initiatives, engaging with all demographics of the local community and is also about influencing decision makers. The project has the potential to really bring biodiversity into St Andrews and therefore into the lives of those who live, work or visit the town.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Covid – 19, has been the biggest challenge so far. Community engagement and ‘hands on’ conservation activities have always been central to the ambition of the Green Corridors Project. However due to the pandemic, several of the activities we had planned are currently not safe to undertake. Such as, we had hoped to launch the project with a public tree-planting event at the North Haugh but this event has now been postponed. Other planned activities for the project, we have been able to adapt to meet social distancing guidance, including running a ‘Backyard BioBlitz’ event; a citizen science event that the community can engage with from the safety of their home through an online platform. Taking a positive from not being able to get outdoors with the project at present, is that we are doing a lot of work behind the scenes to prepare for when we are able to. We have also been progressing aspects of the project which we are able to do remotely, including discussions with Fife Council around habitat management and invasive species.
Do you have any advice for engaging with and protecting nature during the COVID-19 restrictions?
A potential positive to come from Covid – 19, is it may create the perfect opportunity to engage with and support nature. I think everyone is really valuing their daily outdoor exercise and being in natural spaces. People who have garden spaces are enjoying spending time in them and are growing their own produce or sowing wildflowers. There is also now a wealth of online resources available, such as; tutorials on how to grow vegetables, how to build a ‘bug hotel’, species identification which are helping make nature and environmental issues accessible.
I think my advice is to take a moment and appreciate any and all nature that is around you. For example, if you have a garden, look to see what birds spend time in it. As the breeding bird season progresses, notice the changes. Have you seen the same bird each day, is that bird carrying materials for making a nest, have you seen a nest, have you seen food being brought to a nest? There are so many nature stories unfolding every day, all around us, take a moment to notice them. I believe when people start to see the nature stories that is when they feel engaged enough to protect nature.
Also, something I’ve learned over the past few years is to see nature through a childs eyes. My three-year-old son and I were walking in a wooded area (as our daily exercise) and I was trying out the iNaturalist app on my phone. I asked him to point out all the different plants he could find and we would use the app to identify them. He doesn’t view anything as a weed, or not particularly interesting, his favourite plant that day was cow parsley. He thought it was so pretty it should be used at a wedding!
A friendly reminder when out doing daily exercise, is it is very important to make sure you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and pay particular attention to updated guidance regarding Covid-19.
What is your favourite wildlife to keep an eye out for this spring?
In terms of wildlife, birds, I think they’re great! If you are just starting to take more interest in nature, then birds are a great place to start. Whether you live in the country or a flat in a city, have a garden or don’t, you’ll always be able to see birds. They are easily visible all throughout the day (early mornings are better for sighting but birds are still seen all day), they come in so many different shapes, colours and sizes which makes them engaging. Also, as we are now into the breeding bird season, it is a great time to keep an eye and ear out on your local birds, you might even be lucky enough to spot a nest or chicks.
How can we help the Green Corridors project?
If you think that the Green Corridors Project sounds interesting and you would like to get involved, get in touch, we would love to hear from you. We have lots of ideas about how volunteers can progress the project, from undertaking tree planting and habitat management to engaging with schools. We are also really keen to hear from anyone who lives within our target area and would be willing to increase biodiversity within their own garden spaces through native species planting and invasive species management. Also, if you have an idea or see an opportunity to progress the Green Corridor project, let us know, all ideas are welcomed and encouraged.
Watch a short video Aisling created about Green Corridors here: facebook.com/EnvironmentStA/videos
To find out more about biodiversity in St Andrews, visit: www.st-andrews.ac.uk/environment/biodiversity
Many of the Environment Team and Transition University of St Andrews are currently on furlough under the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Please bear in mind our replies will be delayed during this period.