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Aimée's story: 'From volunteer to leader'

So I first volunteered in the end of March, beginning of April of 2022, with the Nature Ninjas. The reason I got involved was because they were doing work that I was interested in participating in, and the social aspect, and getting to see the difference that you’re making. I only volunteered I think maybe 4 times every second week, mainly doing litter pickings, which I liked because that is very unsightly, and you were able to talk to people. It was good at the end of the litter picks to look and see all the bags, but it was also annoying because that much litter had been left.  So it’s good to know that you’re doing your part and it was nice to be keeping it clean when other people aren’t. And then I also done a little bit of dogwood removal which I hadn’t done before. I didn’t even know what dogwood was and once you do know about it, I can’t not see it.  It was really good to learn about that invasive species and what it meant, and why there was so much of it, and how to maintain it, which obviously now that I’ve got this job informs that aspect of it.  

That was all I’d really done on the volunteering front, and through it I did meet obviously the volunteers that I now lead but there was also people like Lesley, who has known me since I was a baby.  So even though I’m meeting new people it still shows you how small the world is, so that’s like a kind of sweet, nice full circle type of thing.  Also I met new people who I’d seen about town, and it was good to know that there were other people around me that cared about the environment because sometimes it didn’t feel like that.   

As for getting this job, I’d applied multiple times for different jobs with the Living Landscape because I liked the work they were doing, and I wanted to be involved. I just came across the advert one day and I applied for the job knowing that it would be leading the Nature Ninjas. I was a bit concerned because obviously having volunteered I knew some of the regulars and they really know their stuff, they’re really on the ball. Some of them have been doing it for years.  So I felt like they were going to be trying to like catch me out sort of thing but they’ve been really really welcoming and understanding.  

Even when I was volunteering, I did wish sometimes there was maybe younger people there just because I’d maybe have more in common, but I can talk to them fine and get on with them really well. When you think of the work that they’ve done, young people wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff, they don’t have the motivation, they don’t have the determination, whereas their mindset is just you’ve given us a job, we’re going to do that job. It’s inspiring me, it’s impacting me because especially with scything, at the start I was like this is tedious, and boring, and we’re meant to do this on multiple other sites for probably like 2 months, can we not just like sprinkle in a little litter pick here and there to just break it up, for my own sanity? But then when I see them and they just batter into it, I’m like God I need to up my game to meet them where they’re at. I’m really liking working with them, and I’ve got a lot to learn from them about just life and mindset, and also conservation.

The response I’ve had from leading the sessions now is … I think it makes them feel good because I was a volunteer, so I know how the volunteers’ minds work and how they tend to view stuff. I find myself when I’m thinking of sessions, being aware of different people and what I’ve heard in the past, different people’s preferences, or different people’s experiences and how we can use that and tie it in and involve them because it’s not like a lesson, it’s not ‘I’m here to instruct you on how to do this’, I’m just facilitating it and they can lead the session in whatever way they want. Like with the scything which we’ve done for 4 weeks now and we’ll probably be doing for another month and a bit maybe, I’ve said to them yes we can come and do the scything but if you’re getting a bit bored or it’s monotonous and you want a bit of a change speak up, and we can alter it.  So just trying to make it interesting for them so that they get the best experience that they can but also the work we need to do gets done. 

It’s had a good impact, a positive impact on me, because I use the areas that we maintain. I take my dog there, so it’s places I use as a member of the public, not just as a volunteer and now an employee.  So it was nice to know that when I was out with my dog, I’m thankful that the litter has been picked, you know that kind of…broader awareness of knowing that there are people working to make Cumbernauld better and cleaner and more biodiverse. 


This is part of the project 'Stories of nature connections' (


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Active Project


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.