Studying BSc Ecology at UEA and volunteering in the RSPB’s communications team are completely different, yet so similar – the bottom line being conservation, conservation, conservation. The past year, I have not only had the closest nature experiences of my life, but have learnt why conserving our wildlife really is so important.

Training to be an ecologist requires a large amount of field work – something that the 15 other ecology students and I love on our course. One of the highlights this year (besides getting stuck in a marsh with leaking wellies!) was bird ringing. A bird novice, it was amazing to get so close to these creatures that we normally only see flying way above our heads or fluttering away as you walk past. Its tiny beak cheeping and chirping, it was amazing to learn how little the great tit weighed and how delicate and fragile it seemed in our lecturer’s hands. It’s easy to understand why so many people have such a great love for birds; our flying friends.

The other side of ecology is habitats and plants – something I hear less about at RSPB, but is still a focus in their mission to create and maintain homes for nature. This summer, between volunteering for RPSB and enjoying my ridiculously long summer break, I have been completing a piece of university coursework – a wild flower taxonomic collection. Keyed-up on my ragworts, cats-ears and hawkbits, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the sheer breadth of flowers that flood our roadsides, embankments and grasslands. On one afternoon ramble to find flowers, gorgeous arrays of butterflies fluttered all around me, emerging from the surrounding foliage and stunning me with their colours and vibrancy. And there is the link – without plants and habitats, British wildlife can no longer survive. Without a ‘home’, there will be no more great tits to bird ring; there will no more butterflies on countryside walks.

This is where conservation, conservation, conservation comes into action. Whilst the RSPB’s 200 reserves provide vital homes for nature, our own gardens are now being put under the spotlight. With gardens equalling the equivalent of 380,000 football pitches, RSPB’s new ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign is all about taking our local patches and turning them into wildlife-friendly, havens for nature.  With 60% of UK species in decline, now is no better time to use our spare time and space to help RSPB build a million new homes for nature.

Please visit www.rspb.org.uk/ homes for lots of information on simple things that you can do to help make your patch a haven for wildlife. Find us on Facebook, or tweet us at @RSPBInTheEast to let us know what amazing things you do for nature where you live!

As featured in the Eastern Daily Press, Saturday 10 August

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