Madeleine is a Site Guardian at College and Argal Lakes, and is also completing a work experience placement with both South West Lakes and Cornwall Reptile and Amphibian Group (CRAG). Here is an account of her experiences...

Being a Site Guardian means getting out into nature and monitoring the invasive non-native species present in the area, using ID guides and other learning materials provided by South West Lakes. The importance of carrying out regular surveys and uploading geographical evidence of species present (often using only your phone as GPX) is in monitoring their spread in the natural environment and an opportunity to manage this.

Invasive species management costs millions of pounds every year, and therefore it is crucial to monitor their spread. Furthermore, being a site guardian involves raising awareness about the invasive species among the general public and sharing the idea of Check Clean Dry, a campaign established to combat the spread of invasive non-native species. This campaign aims to educate regular water users about the way aquatic plants and animals are transported by regular equipment, increasing their spread across the country, and therefore the importance of checking, cleaning, and drying any equipment before leaving the site.

In general, it is an amazing opportunity for anyone interested in the natural world, plant and animal identification, nature walks, species management, and more, regardless of the level of your knowledge as great training is provided!

Volunteering for CRAG is very rewarding as it lets you get out into nature, learn about reptiles and amphibians, and appreciate their importance in the ecosystem. It involves monitoring reptile mats and allows you to become a reptile surveyor (what a cool role!). In the winter months when they are not active you have the opportunity to see other species such as voles, which also like to use these mats as a shelter, and you often find their nests underneath. When it warms up again you have the chance to spot amazing ectotherms, and record these on to the ARGWEB to share these sightings with others!

Being a Site Guardian for College and Argal Lakes, as well as a volunteer for CRAG gives me, a university student, lots of invaluable field experience, as well as allowing me to get out and explore the natural world beyond a textbook, therefore I could not recommend volunteering for both South West Lakes and CRAG enough!