The work of the GWCT has inspired students at Sparsholt College for over 40 years. Located near Winchester, the college has long been the choice of those passionate about conservation and the rural environment. A number of the courses offered at the college give students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the GWCT from practical on-site experience to specialist guest lectures from scientists and advisors.
Mike Swan, our head of education, remembers his early experiences with Sparsholt students more than 30 years ago and said: “I used to take groups of students partridge driving on local shoots to give them practical gamekeeping experience. There are whole cohorts of people who have gone on to work in game management or wildlife conservation having benefited from the relationship between Sparsholt and the GWCT.”
Mike Short, from our predation research team, is currently working with the students to investigate the attractiveness of commonly used trap tunnel configurations, and predator attractants. A priority is to find out whether or not blind-ended tunnels are as attractive to stoats as runthrough tunnels.
Another initiative, the EU LIFE-funded ‘Waders for Real’ project aims to reverse the decline of breeding waders in the Avon Valley. Together with GWCT staff, students have been working with farmers and landowners to improve the breeding habitat for lapwing and redshank.
“It is without doubt a mutually beneficial relationship,” explains Mike Short. “Working with students at the college has enabled our small research team to take on more work, and provides a valuable platform to educate the next generation of gamekeepers. Importantly, it helps them to understand the crucial role that GWCT science plays in shaping ‘best practice’ predation management guidance that they must follow when they seek employment in the game and wildlife sector.”
Martin Edwards and Rod Greenwood of Sparsholt College confirmed the value of this working relationship and said: “The number of students who have gone on to hold jobs in the game and wildlife sector is testament to the success of the relationship, as it stands well with potential employers to be able to cite work experience with the GWCT.”
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