Thursday 26 May 2016

My journey through BCT

My incredible journey through the world of bats and the Bat Conservation Trust began one year ago. In May 2015 I came across the BCT website and found out the National Bat Helpline was recruiting for seasonal staff and interns. I didn’t even think twice and applied as it could be my chance to finally enter the world of animal conservation (I was then working in retail).

Having an academic background in ecology and wildlife meant I was familiar with bats but it was not until I started reading through the masses of information the website provided that I realised how utterly amazing these animals are! I find all aspects of animal biology incredibly interesting and the more I read the more fascinating bats sounded. I mean, seriously they tick all the boxes:
1) Only mammal that can actually fly which in terms of evolution is incredible!
2) Their wings are elongated fingers which is anatomically super cool.
3) Despite being relatively small they are very long lived animals (small animals tend to live quite a short life because of their fast metabolism) with some species living 40 years or more! This defies many physiology “laws”.
4) They provide many ecological services; for example in the UK all 18 species feed on insects so they are thought to be great pest controllers. They are also good indicators of biodiversity and environment health.

I could go on and on about them, I often do, but this time I will stop there (but their behaviour is really interesting and their immune system is fantastic!).

Anyway, I digress. I did get an internship with the Bat Helpline and that was an amazing experience! Most of the calls to the helpline are very positive and come from people who genuinely want to help bats or just want to know more about them. It felt great to be able to give the correct advice and information about bats to callers and dispel those common silly myths about bats. This amazing Helpline counts with the support of volunteers who kindly give up their time to help bats in need. I found that truly inspiring. Alas, all good things come to an end and my internship at the helpline ended.

Preparing welcome packs for the National Bat Conference in 2015
However, my journey through BCT did not stop there! Luckily BCT were recruiting for a temporary Conference Administration Assistant to help with the National Bat Conference (the largest conference for bat enthusiasts in the UK); after applying for that position I was accepted and started my new job in August 2015. I absolutely love organising stuff so this job fit me like a glove! For 1 month I booked in delegates, un-booked them, prepared over 300 welcome packs, sent thousands of emails and got to go to the National Bat Conference in 2015. Even though I was working during the conference I had a fantastic time and had the chance to listen to some brilliant talks about bat research and conservation. Like I mentioned before, this was a temporary position but as luck would have it, another job opportunity was available at BCT…

At the Grant Museum of Zoology for a work meeting
In October 2015 I started a full-time and permanent position as a Fundraising & Membership Officer, my current role in the Bat Conservation Trust. I really do love my job; it’s very diverse, fun and it allows me to keep raising awareness towards bat conservation on a daily basis; part of my work is to manage our social media pages like Facebook and Twitter. I also get to participate in lots of events which is a great opportunity to tell people about bats and engage them in bat conservation! A very exciting event we will be doing this summer is Gardener’s World Live, where we will be exhibiting a “garden”. The theme of our exhibition will be Urban Gardening; we want to encourage everyone to plant bat and wildlife friendly gardens and explain that even a small urban garden or green space can help bats!

Part of my job is to also inform people during events or calls how easy it is to get involved in bat conservation. There are many different ways that people can help:
- We encourage people to contact local bat groups who organise lots of batty activities
- Doing bat surveys is always a great fun and extremely important as it allows us to keep monitoring bat populations. The best thing is there is a survey for every level of experience, even complete beginners with no experience in bat surveys (and you can even do it in the comfort of your garden
- Becoming a member also helps us tremendously. Not only does joining add your voice to ours but we rely on donations in order to fund our work
- Helping us fundraise by organising an even or taking up a challenge for bats
-  Volunteer for bats!
- Record your bat sighting on the Big Bat Map
-  Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, check our website and read our blog

On a training trek in Box Hill. Did 16 miles that day!

Like I said, I do love my job and I truly believe in the work the Bat Conservation Trust is doing. So much so I am actually doing a 25km trek at the Brecon Beacons in Wales this June to raise funds for bats! If you want to know more about this you can visit my Just Giving page. I have just reached my target but every donation helps so you can still donate!
So, in a nutshell, this is my journey through BCT and it’s been an incredible one! Working for an amazing organisation, with an incredible bunch of people and speaking up for bats!

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Andreia Correia da Costa (@AndreiaC0sta)

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