Dawn Colley, Biodiversity Education Officer for Manx Wildlife Trust, won the UNESCO Biosphere Award for Education in 2021. She gives us an insight into her role and its importance:
Manx Wildlife Trust (MWT) was delighted to have been presented with the award for Education from UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man in 2021.
At MWT we really value the importance of education, we believe people care more about the things they understand.
Having the Isle of Man recognised by UNESCO for its variety of habitats and wonderful wildlife is hugely important to us. One of the goals of being a biosphere is that the balance between people and nature is recognised and cherished. This is something we also feel strongly about at the MWT and one of our major aims is to connect people closer to our fabulous nature.
I feel very lucky that I have a job whereby I can share my passion for nature with people, especially all the Island’s schools. In my job, I have worked with all 37 state schools, both primary and secondary.
Between 2014 to 2021, I have had 43,937 people participate in events which I have run. The events can be on a wide variety of topics and one of my greatest joys is to see the look of amazement on people’s faces when they learn something new and fascinating about our wildlife.
Together we have discovered rock pool delights such as the colourful Snakeslock anemones, delved into the secret world of our streams to find such fearsome invertebrates as dragonfly nymphs, got giggly at the antics of frogs, squealed at the feeling of slugs crawling on our hands and been enchanted by the sound of bird song.
The recent Covid-19 lockdowns also proved what a calming influence and joy nature has been for many people. It has also highlighted just how important our open spaces are and the quiet areas dedicated to wildlife like as our nature reserves for people to sit and enjoy.
Try walking through our Close Sartfield nature reserve wildflower meadows in June and enjoy the sight of hundreds of orchids to feel some of the joy of nature. Or walk alongside a stream in one of our many glens to be soothed by the sound of tumbling water.
Within our workshops we have supported nature by learning about the best ways to garden and encourage wildlife. We have, constructed bird boxes, bat boxes, bee homes, butterfly homes, hedgehog hibernation boxes and created bird feeders, too. Our children’s wildlife membership group, called WATCH, have brought together like-minded children and helped them discover new places on the Island to explore. Every summer we run sessions to get out and about in nature. So not only are people flourishing on our Island but our wildlife is too.
Adults being immersed in nature are just as important, and MWT runs several courses for more in-depth learning including wildlife gardening, wildlife observation and the ecology of meadows.
These courses are designed to ignite a passion and greater understanding of the richness and balance of Manx biodiversity. Established after a beetle identification workshop which we organised, a need for like-minded people fascinated by insects saw the establishment of an Invertebrate Group which meets monthly, with field outings and identification skills honed up. We also outreach to WI groups and any other interested parties who are keen to learn more about our biosphere, the wonderful Isle of Man.
MWT is grateful to both the Department of Education, Sport and Culture and the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture for funding to support this role, which helps the MWT to achieve its dreams and aims of helping to open up nature to all and creating a journey of discovery about our fabulous wildlife.