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Written by Susie Stockwell, bird team member and author of #itsawildlife blog

Photos courtesy of Alex Tozer


Operation Wallacea is all about building skills and expanding experiences for students in a meaningful way – so that all participants can contribute to an important data set while they are with us on site, but also so they can build transferable skills in conducting surveys and identifying species which they can take with them onto their future projects.

For us, it’s not about rote-learning the bird species local to the area of Croatia where the Operation Wallacea surveys are based so that students can recognize them by call and by sight. Rather, we try to teach ways for students to learn how to learn, methods for speeding up the process of learning species identification and implementing survey methodology to a satisfactory level which can otherwise take years to master.

We recognize that starting these processes on your own can feel daunting, especially for groups of animals or plants with overwhelming diversity. So, in this way, coming on a crash course in field ecology like the Operation Wallacea projects can be a great way to push past these feelings and put your skills to the test!

In this way, that when the students head back home, or out into the workforce, they have the skills and field experience to give them the confidence they need to be able to survey for wildlife in any location. For example, if you go on to a role in ecological consulting, you can often be asked to conduct bird surveys in areas you haven’t visited before. And so, having the skills and confidence to step up to the plate and implement that formula for tackling this new community can be incredibly helpful.

Three tips from us for getting started in this space are:

  • Start big picture – and work in. Learning groups before species can be very useful – and you’ll likely find you know more than you think you do!
  • Start with the most common critters you see around youthe best place to start is with what’s right in front of you!
  • Don’t go at it alone – use field guides, download an app (the free Merlin app for birds is a great place to start), take photos or record calls you’re not sure of to come back to and reach out to people to ask questions and go out in the field with them. Everything is easier with a mentor!

For more information, and practical support in the field, why not join an Operation Wallacea project?


This weekly blog was written by Operation Wallacea bird team member, Susie Stockwell, author of #itsawildlife, a blog and podcast to support young ecologists working their dream job in wildlife conservation. You can read more at: www.itisawildlife.com


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Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
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