Welcome Shona, the newest member of the Bird Aware family! Shona joined us this week in a new role as our Development Officer – Dog Initiatives, let’s find out more about her…
“I have always loved nature, I spent most of my childhood playing outdoors and I always knew I wanted to work with animals, so I studied Animal Behaviour at the University of Lincoln and also completed my Masters in Clinical Animal Behaviour there in 2016. While we worked a lot with companion animals – dogs, cats and horses, we also learned a lot about ecology and conservation, and I became very aware of how important it was to help get the message of all the amazing work being done by the scientific community out into the public. Our natural world is so important and I believe most people feel the same but there is a lot we need to understand and do to help it thrive.”
What did you do before joining Bird Aware?
In my last job I did engagement and education at a YMCA supporting young people and before that I did a couple of internships in conservation and education. The first of these was at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland where I worked in the Education Department, where we did everything from taking students on park trips to teach them about animals and conservation to giving daily animal talks – my favourite being the wolf talk! I then went to Mauritius to work with a marine conservation NGO, running the volunteer program and the turtle conservation project as well as helping with other data collection.
What are you most looking forward to about the role?
I am really looking forward to getting out and meeting lots of lovely dogs and their owners, and finding ways that we can all enjoy the coast while protecting our precious wildlife and natural habitats. This role is a chance for me to combine lots of my favourite things, dogs, behaviour, wildlife conservation and education!
What is your favourite coastal bird?
I have a soft spot for cormorants as they were the first coastal bird I learned to identify when I was younger, which I found very exciting! My family would see who could spot one first whenever we went to the coast and I would make up stories and songs about them with my little brother.
Where is your favourite place to visit on the Solent coast?
We had a lovely trip to Lymington when I was younger and I have a lot of happy memories of the day, we even named one our goldfish after it! I am really excited to explore more of the coast and I expect I’ll have lots of new favourites soon.
Do you have a dog yourself?
I have a lurcher called Finlay who is about 7 years old, we think he is a mix of sighthound, Labrador and Staffie as he has features of all of them but he is a rescue so he might have all sorts in there! He had a bad start to life as he was found on the street covered in injuries, starving, very poorly and scared of everything, but now he is healthy and happy, getting spoilt every day. He loves people, as long as they introduce themselves quietly and calmly, his favourite toys are tennis balls and his best doggie friends are Ted and Toto.
Tell us your top tips for wildlife loving dog owners:
Getting out with our dogs is one of the best ways to enjoy the natural world around us, and dogs make great wildlife spotting companions as they often notice animals long before we do! It is up to us though, to make sure that we and our furry friends keep our distance from wildlife, and avoid disturbing those animals.
- Loose lead walking: this allows our dogs to explore and have a lovely time, but gives us the option to bring them back and stop them getting too close to wildlife. Why not have a practice and pop them on the lead for some training time.
- Brian games: Remember that dogs have been bred to work with us so a walk isn’t just for exercise, there are all sorts of games and activities you can do out on a walk that can be more fun than just running around. Doing scent games, fun training with treats or toys as rewards, anything to get their brains active and interacting with you.
- Avoid the mud! When the tide is out the mudflats and saltmarsh might seem like an interesting place to explore, but these habitats are extremely sensitive and are important for the survival of many species, particularly in the winter.
- Reduce your clean up time and help protect the wildlife by keeping your dog close by and away from these habitats, sticking to paths or the top of the beach.