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Wildlife Recording Events – Peel Park, Salford 2013

June 27, 2013

Bioblitz2012 084

Despite a persistent winter, for three days in March USCATs’ Environment Team joined forces with Greater Manchester Ecology Unit and the Salford Rangers to hold a series of wildlife recording events in Peel Park, Salford! The sessions followed on nicely from last year’s Bioblitz which enabled the community to see just how diverse the park’s wildlife really is.

An overview of what went on can be found at here , while an inspiring video made by Tania Escobar Orihuela – a former student on the MA Wildlife Documentary Production course at the University of Salford – from the event held in 2012 can be found here

Ashley Kennedy – first year student on the BSc (Hons) Wildlife Conservation with Zoo Biology at the University of Salford and one of the Environment Team volunteers, provides an overview of each event and some detail about what she did during the sessions:

I joined USCATs’ Environment Team as being a Wildlife Conservation student playing around outdoors with nature is something that appeals to me. You can never gain enough experience and transferrable skills; they all come in handy at some point in the future.

After recently signing up for the USCATs’ Environment Team I felt instantly welcomed by the staff and students from the team. I spent three days in succession volunteering with them and found them to be some of the most pleasant days I’d had in a while! Over the three days we tried small mammal trapping, moth trapping, bird identifying, river-dipping and learning about RODIS.

On the first day I was greeted by two nice people from the Greater Manchester Local Records Centre (GMLRC) who handed out booklets on ‘Mini Mammal Trapping.’ We then were shown, in steps, how to set up and bait a Longworth trap. We set the doors to stay open for the first night so that the mammals can investigate our traps at their own leisure and get familiar with them and the tasty treats inside – this is known as pre-baiting. We proceeded out into Peel Park and set up our traps several metres apart under trees and vegetation. We recorded the positions of our traps and hoped for the best.

On the second day we went back to collect the traps and search for any signs of disturbance in the bedding within the traps. We then reset the traps fully restocked with food and bedding in the same places and left them overnight again. However, this time we set the doors on the traps to close when a mammal trips the locking mechanism. As it got dark we set up a Skinner trap in order to trap and identify moths. It was a cold night staring at a bright light bulb but the jokes and laughter kept us warm and in high spirits – one of the great things Environment Team. During the moth trapping small groups were taken off around the park to go for a bat walk. We stopped in various places around the park the listen to the bat detector which picks up the frequencies of the bats echolocation. Upon returning to the moth trap we managed to catch and identify a Hebrew Character moth (Orthosia gothica) before packing it up for the night.

On day three we were up bright and early to check our mammal traps. Trap after trap was empty and as our hopes waned, our sixth Longworth trap had a wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) inside! The guys at the GMLRC taught us how to identify and sex the mouse, it was a female. We were then taught how to pick the mouse up safely by the scruff of its neck without harming it. We then released the mouse and continued to check our other traps to no avail. We packed up our traps and went on a bird walk with an experienced ornithologist who led us around the park pointing out how to identify flying birds that just look like shadows by sounds and patterns.

Later that day the GMRC held a ‘Bioblitz’ in the park which involved the public in recording all the wildlife they could find with specialists. One of the Salford Rangers came down to do some river kick sampling and took the tray of invertebrates to the volunteers to see what they could identify and how to learn the difference in species of larvae. After all the fauna and flora had been identified and noted down, we were then taken to be taught how to input all the data we had collected into a special system called RODIS. RODIS is a data collection program which can be used by anyone to enter wildlife data. They also show the booms and busts of certain species at certain times of the year and also helps to identify rare and unusual species that have long since left the park and one again returned.

Over the 3 days I had a great time being outdoors with fellow like-minded people and playing around with creepy-crawlies. I learnt a lot of skills and highly recommended that anyone interested should sign up – even if to just fill up spare time, you’ll have a good time!



Girlguiding UK – flexible volunteering

April 15, 2013

Katherine supports Girlguiding UK as and when she can and shares her experience.

I began working through my Leadership Qualification in September 2009, following volunteering with Brownies for approximately six months. I was, at the time, working full time (thirty eight hours per week and sometimes more with London trips included!), and so I needed to be able to fit training and completing the qualification around my busy schedule! Luckily, I was able to attend the Brownie meetings on a regular weekly basis, although there were some weeks where I couldn’t be around on Tuesdays due to being in another city. The Leadership Qualification is accommodating of this and it was okay for me to complete it in as much or as little time as was needed. I completed the whole thing (including section 4 ‘Running you own Unit’ which isn’t essential) in around 6 months. I was able to go at my own pace and it didn’t require a great deal of extra time, which meant I didn’t have to bend over backwards to complete it! I would definitely recommend it.

How do you fit it in around your studies?

Nowadays, I have opted to volunteer as Editor of the County Newsletter. I also mentor two young ladies from the local area who are completing their Leadership Qualification. These job roles mean that I no longer need to commit to being at a unit for two hours each week – it’s a lot more flexible as I receive articles to edit and can look at these in my own time before editing and co-creating the newsletter with Becky (PR Advisor). I decided to change roles recently because I started my PGCE in Secondary English in September and can’t guarantee an early leave in the evening. I also have lessons to plan and so I can fit in editing and meeting my trainees around this – its ideal for those who are busy and can’t guarantee a time when they are free!

What experience you have gained from volunteering with Girlguiding UK? 

Volunteering with GirlGuiding UK has been an invaluable experience. I have met so many enthusiastic, outgoing and kind people! I have been able to develop skills which have also led to an increase in employability! (You can always add your experience and skills learnt onto your CV at the end of the day, and this leads to ‘Brownie’ points from employers!) To give you some examples, I was able to speak about the skills developed during my Leadership Qualification when applying for my PGCE teaching qualification, and being editor has ensured that my degree in English Literature was not wasted! I have been able to gain a great deal from passing on knowledge and assisting others through mentoring too! The experiences you gain are invaluable – I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have been climbing, sailed the Manchester Ship Canal, or attended the Sale Dog Show if I hadn’t been involved in Guiding – and these all turned out to be fantastic experiences!

For more info visit

Girlguiding UK – a rewarding experience

March 1, 2013

Here’s what Charlotte, who volunteers weekly with Girlguiding Greater Manchester West has to say about her experience.

Why do I volunteer?

I started volunteering for a local Rainbow unit in May 2011, I had just finished my level 3 in Childcare at college and decided that I needed some more voluntary hours outside of my placements. I was searching the internet for some great organisations that work with children and I came across Girl Guiding UK and I soon became intrigued. I read about Rainbows, Brownies and Guides and decided that this was exactly what I was looking for; the session hours can easily fit into any schedule and offered opportunities to progress. My usual age range is 4-7 and Rainbows was a perfect match for me; it is the youngest group of girls that Girl Guiding UK offer (they are 5-7 years old) and so it fitted really well! So I signed up and not long after Girlguiding got in touch with me and I attended the next meeting. Participating in Rainbows was like nothing I have ever done with children before and I became hooked!

Busy schedule?

I started Rainbows at the end of college and attended a term before they broke up for the summer holidays: This was a great settling-in period for me as I was able to get used to it and not have the stress of college at the same time. I started back at Rainbows after the summer holidays and I was given my leader name ‘Daisy’. This is one of the great perks of working with Rainbows- you get a great flower nickname! This nickname will stick with you no matter what! I started back at university the same day.

During the week I finish university at 3ish and have a couple of hours to get home and prepare for Rainbows. I have been lucky with my schedule and have never found it hard juggling the two! When setting up with Girl Guiding UK it is easy enough to find a unit that will work with your schedule as not all Rainbow units are on the same night. Make sure you check your schedule before you say yes to a unit which meet on your busiest evening! Rainbows usually lasts about one hour or a little more so it doesn’t really affect my studies. I always have enough time to study the rest of the week.

And the doors keep on opening..

As if I didn’t think that volunteering for Rainbows was enough, I had my heart set on going to America and working in a camp for the summer. So I signed up with a company called ‘Camp Leaders’ and created my profile. I then waited endlessly to be chosen by a camp. I attended a job fair where I could meet the camp directors and show them why I was the perfect counsellor for their camp. I came across a camp called ‘May Flather’ which is a girl scout camp – I met my match and I wanted to apply! May Flather only look at applicants who have scout/guide unit or child experience so I spoke about my Rainbows experience to the camp director and I was hired on the day!

Because of my experience with Girl Guides the camp took an interest in me and I had an amazing summer! After this camp I attended the Girl Scouts 100th anniversary where Scouts and Guides from all over the world attended a record breaking sing a long – it was amazing to meet these people and I also got some priceless souvenirs from the Girl Scouts. I learnt a lot about Girl Scout tradition and also lots of new songs and games that I can now incorporate into my sessions at Rainbows. I am forever learning great things which enable me to positively develop my unit as well as myself.

Leadership qualification

As well as gaining some great skills and having fabulous memories you can also be given the opportunity to gain a leadership qualification which looks great on your CV as well as giving you a more hands on role within the unit.  I have had the opportunity to create session plans for my leadership qualification which I have found to be great experience. You learn a lot more about the girls this way as you can ask them what they like to do and plan around their ideas as well. From the leadership qualification you are able to attend first aid and CPR classes so you can develop a new skill and gain some vital training which will be very handy when in meetings, on any pack holidays, or in the wider world too!

Here come the girls!

Girl Guides offer a girl-only space which I find really unique and beneficial to these girls. I have worked in classrooms for the past 3 years and I have found that little boys overpower little girls and this can be confidence knocking for some. With the boy-free zone at Rainbows it enables the girls to be themselves and enjoy their time away from family. The girls are able to meet new girls and develop in a whole different environment that is special to them. We don’t discriminate against boys at Girlguiding UK, we just find the environment to be important to the girls exclusively as it helps to build confidence. Guiding gives girls and young women a voice which is tolerant and encouraging of equality and diversity.

Find out more at

Tuesday 19th February ’13

February 21, 2013

Hello once again!

Going to be far better with my blog posts now, back at Uni and back on track. Tuesday is now not the only day I do at Buile Hill, but I also do an hour on Wednesday and also an hour on Friday morning. Tuesday was a pretty normal day for me at school, so I’ll talk about my very first Wednesday session, with a new teacher, Miss Talbot.

Miss Talbot also did the PGCE course at Edge Hill that I found out last week I got on to – the advice and sharing of tips has been great, and it’s lovely to meet people who have only recently gone what you have been through. So Wednesday, I did a photography workshop with some Year 11 girls. Their main project focus was on materials, however, to broaden the scope for photos, we looked at abstract lines. This was a perfect chance to use some macro photography, and I really enjoyed it. There was approximately 12 girls in the group, and we walked around the school, taking some shots of some lines that they could find, challenging them to take the photos from different angles and to think about getting really up close so the shot was abstract.

Some of the girls went off and did their own thing, and when they came back, their photos weren’t as well thought out as the girls’ who stayed with me whilst they were taking photos, because I was able to give them advice and keep them on track. The girls were complaining they couldn’t get up close shots, which I explained was because they’d changed the setting I’d told them to leave their cameras on.

It was such a great learning experience, and good to go off with such a large group of students too – I really really enjoyed myself. It was different, to have control over such a large group, which, when I say 12 pupils, it doesn’t even sound that large – but it really really is when its your first time. I’ve learnt well and I’ll be applying what I’ve learnt from yesterday’s session to next week’s lesson too!

All in all, another great experience!

I must remind all readers that the work I now do at the school isn’t expected of me, I have offered to do this, and if you are starting the scheme next year, then I think it would be advisable to definitely try and do as much as you can, because I am getting so much out of it! Studies are important and a main priority so you must make sure that you can fit everything in!

Until next time!


Applications now open for High School Mentoring 2014/15

February 11, 2013


We are working in partnership with locally based High Schools Albion Academy and Buile Hill College for Visual Arts to offer support to pupils aged 11 to 16.

This is a great opportunity for students to gain subject specific, classroom based experience of working with young people and mentoring skills with support from teachers and the lead mentor at the school.

The project would provide relevant work experience for students considering a career in teaching or working with children and many students who have completed the project have been successful in securing an offer for a PGCE course.

For anyone interested in working with children that do not wish to pursue a career in teaching, for example someone looking to work as an educational psychologist, youth worker or a learning mentor, the project has a literacy mentoring strand that would provide relevant experience but is based within the mentoring unit rather than being primarily classroom based. If this applies to you, please indicate this in the section provided on the application form.

It may be useful to read the USCATs’ blog written by Ellis Cullen, a current mentor on the project to get an insight into what volunteering on the project is like.

The Application and Selection Process

  • Application forms must be submitted by 3 March 2013.
  • If shortlisted you will be invited to attend a 2 hour assessment centre on Wednesday 13 March 2013 which will include a short assessment of your literacy and numeracy skills along with problem solving.
  • If unsuccessful you will be notified by e-mail.
  • If successful you will then be invited to a 1:1 interview week commencing 15 April 2013.
  • If you are successful you will be notified by phone and e-mail.
  • If unsuccessful you will be notified by e-mail and have the opportunity to ask for feedback.


Before being allocated specific pupils to work with, mentors will participate in training which will take place in week commencing 23 September 2013.

The training will enable mentors to familiarise themselves with the classroom support students within the school require as well as learning about the methods and strategies of how this is delivered.

Training for the project will be run by both the University of Salford and the school where you undertake your volunteering and will include the following:

  • Volunteer Induction
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Working with Children training
  • Planning and designing teaching and learning

Project dates – Term 1:

Induction and training – 1pm, Wednesday 25 September 2013 and Wednesday 2 October 2013

Volunteering – week beginning 7 October 2013 to week ending 13 December 2013 (9 weeks in total due to school holidays)

Project dates – Term 2:

Volunteering – week beginning 27 January 2014 to week ending 11 April 2014 (10 weeks in total due to school holidays)

The project does not run during student vacation or examination periods.

It is important to stress that mentors will be required to attend the school once a week on a regular basis.  The time each week will be negotiated with the relevant subject teacher for your school.  Working alongside the teacher, mentors will then be required to support pupils to succeed in the activities and tasks they are required to undertake.  As part of the learning process all mentors will have the opportunity to keep a Personal Development Journal (PDJ) containing reflections on their experience of the sessions they have been a part of and of the learners they are supporting.

Monitoring progress

Students on the project will be supported by USCATs and the school in which they are placed through the following processes:

  • 1:1 meetings to discuss issues and progress as requested
  • Personal Development Journal templates provided to allow reflection on experience
  • Evaluation questionnaires


Lead Mentor and main point of contact at school:

Albion Academy: Debbie Eaton

Buile Hill Visual Arts College: Karen Kenyon

USCATs, who are the project organisers will be available to advise and support where necessary.

Click here to apply.

For more information about getting into teaching visit

Friday 8th February 2013

February 8, 2013

Hi everyone,

I’ve not been updating anywhere near as much as I should have and I need to apologise for this! The mentoring scheme is still happening and I am still thoroughly enjoying it and this is just an update to let you know where I am up to.

First of all, the students that I mentored, after their mini assessments before Christmas, all did really well and actually even went up in their scores which was fantastic to hear. It’s lovely to see progress and for it to be recognized in a formal way too. This is not only a confidence boost for the kids, but also for myself and the skills I have started to learn in teaching and mentoring. 

Luckily, because I want to go ahead with teaching Art and Design, it’s been really helpful to go down to the Art Department at Buille Hill. I now visit the school every Tuesday as usual, and spend the whole day down in Art and Design, where I help out students with ideas and techniques and just provide general assistance to Ms Price, whose lessons I partake in. It has so far been a really interesting and challenging experience (all in a good way) and I’m seeing students that are starting exam pieces, and if all goes well, I can continue to see their progress until the very end.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Buille Hill for being so accommodating and welcoming when I’ve both been mentoring AND working down in the Art Department. All of the staff are really friendly and helpful and I feel as though my presence is valued while I am there. I have students asking for my opinion and asking for assistance with the set of skills I possess. Ms Price and everybody else in the Art Department have been super helpful and I am absolutely loving it – an even bigger reason why the Mentoring Scheme is such a great thing to get involved with!

Fortunately, I also attend the school every Friday morning to do workshops with a Year 11 class, which I teach Photography skills to them. This will significantly boost their grades and will hopefully have them learning a new skill set that they might be interested in! It has been a great experience for myself, having to talk to the students and direct them myself, keeping them on track and creating plans for what I intend to do. This has now led on to other teachers in the department asking me if I can do the same with their classes. I am currently working this out in terms of my timetable and after starting my NMP very recently, I need to consider and organise my time in the best way, but to be needed and wanted within the department is a real confidence boost and makes me feel as though my work is worthy. 

Once again I’ll finish by saying I can’t recommend the scheme enough and I have come such a long way in a relatively short space of time! I have gained skills in talking to students, dealing with behavior, making it fun for the students and coming across challenges as trivial as organizing materials for the groups that I work with. 

I understand that applications are probably now open for the scheme – and if you haven’t got one in – DO IT NOW. It’s the best experience you can get if you want to become a teacher or just gain a bit of experience! Take this opportunity and run with it! 

I promise my next post won’t be too far in the future… 

Tuesday 29 January ’13

January 29, 2013

   Student-volunteering-weeklogoStudent Volunteering Week – Photo Competition

11-16 February is Student Volunteering Week

Got an amazing picture to share about volunteering?

If so NUS want your pictures.

11-16 February is Student Volunteering Week.  NUS is celebrating the amazing impact that students make to society and they want your help to showcase the awesome stuff that students do.

NUS and Student Hubs are aiming to gather 365 photographs – one for every day of the year – of students giving their time and energy to making a positive difference in the world around them.

You’re pictures will be available online and NUS will create an e-book to display them all.

Plus if that’s not enough if your photo is judged to be the best display of student volunteering you’ll win a day with a photographer to help you create professional images showcasing your volunteering or charity work. If your image is of volunteering overseas you’ll get the opportunity to nominate a charity of your choice to receive the prize in the UK.

To submit your photos you can email them to with the following information:

  • Name
  • Institution you’re studying at
  • Email and phone number
  • Short description (no more than a couple of sentences) of what your photo shows

To be eligible for the prize the following criteria apply:

  • The photograph must be of a student volunteering activity, either taken in the UK or internationally.
  • A current FE or HE student studying during SVW 2013 or a student volunteering centre must submit the photograph.
  • The photograph must to be student’s own work or the student must have permission to submit the photo from the photographer.

The deadline to get your pictures in is 19 February.