UHI Inverness student learns skills as new ecology intern

Counting voles and ringing bats is all in a day’s work for ecology intern Fiona Comrie of UHI Inverness who is on placement with Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) for the next 12 months.

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Fiona Comrie

Fiona is studying BSc Forest Management at The Scottish School of Forestry. Originally from Galashiels, Fiona has lived in Nairn for the last five years.

She is working out in the field during a year’s break from her degree course, learning new, practical skills and working alongside experienced ecologists and land managers.

The five interns are the first-ever intake of ecology interns at FLS, and already the organisation can see a positive impact from hosting the students.

Kenny Kortland, a Wildlife Ecologist at FLS who is supervising two of the interns, said: “The extra pairs of hands are hugely welcomed by our hard-pressed environment teams and the students bring enthusiasm and energy, and they’re suggesting some great new ideas. In turn, we’re giving the students a chance to consolidate their learning.”

The students are studying at institutions including UHI Inverness, SRUC and The Open University. Their interests range from climate change and biodiversity to wildlife management and landscape ecology.

They’re working with FLS regional teams based across Scotland, from Glenmore – which includes a remnant of the Caledonian Forest - in the north, to the Ae Forest in Dumfries and Galloway in the south.

Fiona said: “My favourite part of the placement so far has been helping to conduct the vole surveys in the Cairngorms Connect partnership area. Voles, as well as being extremely cute, are the main prey of many of the predators in the Cairngorms so we gathered evidence to help estimate their population.

“Woodland ecology is what I am most interested in. That is what led me to study forestry. As a practical learner, I have really enjoyed getting to learn the various survey techniques used to find out about species types and populations. So far, I have learned how to survey for voles, badgers and otters and have been working to improve my plant identification skills.”

Issued by Forestry and Land Scotland