What is a Pollinator Ambassador?

beth stood with a rucksack on out for a walk wit the moors int he background

Hi my name is Beth and i’m one of the Pollinator Ambassadors. This blog explains how I got into the role and what it actually involves.

Going into my second year I knew I wanted to engage more in university life. I also knew I wanted to apply for placements and needed more relevant sustainability experience. I can’t fully remember how I came across the role, I think it was advertised somewhere and I dropped Jen Dyer (An academic) an email, who explained that it was a campus living lab project with lots of different departments at the University working on it, but led by student ambassadors. She gave me Holly Smith’s details who is one of the Pollinator Ambassadors, and my involvement in the program began.

I still didn’t fully understand what the project was or my role, but I was excited to see where it would lead me. My first contribution to the project was walking the three transects across campus. I forced my friends to come out with me to count bees and other pollinators. I found it quite a relaxing process gradually sweeping left to right looking out for anything flying about. The instructions to do the transects and FIT (Flower-Insect Timed) counts (a simple survey method used to collect data on the visitors and abundance of pollinators to target flower species) were easy to follow. As it was autumn when I started, all the days I was free seemed to be filled with rain and high winds, which are unsuitable days for counting pollinators. I was disheartened that my involvement would be limited to a month and I would have to wait until the following spring to be involved again.

I sent over the data to Holly along with an ambiguous message stating I would love to be more involved in the project if there is anything I could contribute to. To my surprise Holly replied stating I could get involved in the production of an abstract to present the data as a potential journal article.

Following this, I met with the other ambassadors, Holly, Caitlin and Karolina and we discussed putting forward the project to be presented at the Student Sustainability Research Conference. Although, I have no experience with scientific posters I took the leap and said I was happy to try my luck at producing the poster for the conference. Karolina wrote the abstract and Caitlin and Holly presented at the conference. My team members helped me a lot when producing the poster and when I saw it in the Parkinson Building I was extremely proud of what I had produced. Later that day to my confusion I received a message saying we had won, I didn’t realise it was a competition. We did it! We won the best poster award providing us with the opportunity to present our work at the Student Sustainability Conference being held in Switzerland.

I know it seems cheesy, but I was honestly over the moon I entered the project as a volunteer not sure what was going happen then being encouraged by my team to do a poster which then won!

four women stood together in front of a wallThe project has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to try and succeed in new things. I started out not having a clue what I was entering. As the project grows the opportunities I have been involved with are growing as well. Since the conference we won best collaboration award at the universities annual sustainability awards, and we are expanding the project to include bats and working towards a bronze hedgehog friendly campus award.

For all those reading this considering trying new things I would say just go for it as it often will give you a greater return then you were expecting. A bonus is it gave me something to talk about in my placement interview which is a huge help. Engaging in activities outside of your degree helps to show you as a more well-rounded person.

If you’re interested in biodiversity and sustainability then you should consider getting involved. You’ll gain ecological surveying experience by helping us record wildlife (including pollinators, foxes, hedgehogs, bats, birds and more!) as well as attending guided walks and meeting lots of like-minded people along the way.

Get involved by contacting us on; biodiversity@leeds.ac.uk. We also work with the Conservation Volunteers and EnviroSoc Society, so there will be some opportunities for involvement within those societies. We look forward to hearing from you!