LOCAL student Kirsty Harris is currently gaining valuable practical experience towards her degree by volunteering at St Cyrus Nature Reserve.
Kirsty (21), from St Cyrus, is studying wildlife management at Aberdeen University and decided to take time out from her studies after her first year ended.
And with a rich natural environment and variety of habitats virtually on her doorstep, she was keen to offer her services at the reserve which she did in November last year.
She said: “The nature reserve has always been a special place to me, as I have lived in the local village for seven years and visited the beach and reserve hundreds of times. It’s magical, peaceful and very much a hidden treasure.
“I chose to get this practical experience at St.Cyrus because it is a place of such huge biodiversity. You can see dolphins and whales ten metres from the shore; you can find so many birds, butterflies and insects that it is unbelievable. There are many species yet to be discovered down here, which we are hoping we will find in 2011. The wildlife and the habitat are very special and I wanted to learn how to monitor it, how to look after it and how it is managed for conservation – and just see what it is like to work at a place like this.”
Kirsty’s main interest is cetaceans and she is keen to eventually work with whales, dolphins and porpoises in the wild monitoring, reasearching and educating the pubilc about them.
She added: “That is my dream job and hopefully I am well on my way to getting there.”
As well as whale and dolphin-spotting, Kirsty has been involved with may different aspects of the reserve’s work, from helping with school groups to surveying butterflies, wildflowers and insects.
She said: “When you volunteer at a nature reserve like this, you learn a lot. It has opened my eyes and my mind to an enormous amount that I had never thought about before.”
Anyone interested volunteering at the reserve can contact the office on 01674 830736.