Park Protector Volunteer of the Year Awards

My job as Volunteer Development Officer for Northumberland National Park is a privilege.  I get to meet and support so many amazing people who all want to freely give their time and skills to help us to conserve and promote this wonderful place.

With so many incredible people contributing so much, it’s a really difficult job to nominate just one or two people for the Campaign for National Parks ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award.  A nice problem to have!  This year I nominated Jessica Davison, not only for the quality and breadth of her involvement in a difficult pandemic interrupted year, but also because of the personal development she has experienced as a young person and the enthusiasm and positivity that she has shown throughout.

When I contacted Jess to ask her permission to nominate her for ‘Volunteer of the Year’, she was surprised and humble, but pleased.  When I contacted her to say that she’d been shortlisted to the final five, she was delighted and remarked that it had “brightened her lockdown”.  You can read more about why I nominated Jess below, and if you agree with me that she is thoroughly deserving of the award you can vote for her from the following link – the closing date is soon on Wednesday 10th March:

About Jesscia

Jessica has recently turned 20 and lives in Ashington in South East Northumberland.  She is currently on a gap year and is intending to study Environmental Sciences at University in 2021.  Jessica inherited a love of the outdoors from her dad and spends much of her spare time in the Simonside and Cheviot Hills of Northumberland National Park.  Before volunteering with the National Park (and pre-pandemic) Jessica already had volunteering experience within the A&E department of her local NHS hospital.

In autumn 2019 Jess completed our ‘Young Volunteer Ranger’ scheme, undertaking 12 days of on-the-job training with our Ranger Team.  She undertook footpath surveys, waymarking, and replacement of access infrastructure including replacing a footbridge.

Young Volunteers Jessica Davison stands by a newly erected finger post in the National Park.

Further she completed ecological surveys and practical conservation work including involvement in peatland restoration work on Cheviot.  Restoring healthy peatland habitats are important for biodiversity, to reduce sedimentation of water courses (pollution), reduce run-off and flooding, and to lock up carbon dioxide for climate change.

After this initial placement, Jessica started a 12 day ‘Lichen Surveying’ placement at the start of 2020 which was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic but which she completed in October 2020.  Lichens take their nutrients only from the atmosphere and many (though not all) are highly sensitive to airborne pollutants.  The presence of these indicator species can be used as bio-indicators of air quality across the world.  Jess’s work is supporting us to monitor and evidence the clean air of the National Park.

Whilst in lockdown 1.0 Jess contributed to our very successful #outdoorsindoors online campaign completing several engaging blog posts sharing her placement experiences and love for being outdoors in the National Park.  She also supplied a short case study for our social media work to promote National Volunteers Week in June.  In lockdown 3.0 Jess is currently uploading photographs of past wildlife sightings to the iNaturalist platform to contribute to a new wildlife recording project.

Especially given the additional constraints of the pandemic, Jess has made a significant and varied contribution to the National Park in the last year.

Read Jessica’s Lichen Survey blog post and her second post on Lichen in Kidland Forest.