Rob Miller – Living Landscapes Manager, North

Rob Miller, on rightRob Miller, on right

Rob Miller – Living Landscapes Manager, North

When did the natural environment first become important to you?

When I was growing up, I was encouraged to appreciate the natural environment by my parents and it became important to me. I chose subjects for my GCSE’s and A-Levels that reflected my interest in the natural environment.

And when did this turn into a career? 

I studied Environmental Studies at Derby University. After I graduated it became clear that the environmental sector is very competitive for jobs. I was able to gain some volunteer placements at home in Bristol and luckily secured a full time volunteer placement with the Nature Reserves team at The Wildlife Trust for Sheffield and Rotherham for 6 months. I secured a paid job with the Trust and I have been here over 10 years, being an Assistant Land Manager, then working with the training department delivering NVQs & OCN training courses and being involved with Wildscapes delivering land management services. For the last 3 years I have been Living Landscapes Manager for the trust.

In what ways do you involve the local communities in your projects?

- The reserves are open access so local communities can use the reserves at anytime.
- We have set up reserve advisory groups where communities can find out about the work we have doing and planned future work. These meetings also give local people the opportunity to provide their ideas and viewpoints on the work we are doing.
- There are monthly community work days at reserves such at Blacka Moor where local people can get actively involved in helping us physically manage the reserves.
- There is an Events Programme delivered by the Community Wildlife Rangers including child-friendly days and guided walks across all of our reserves.

How important is the community's input?

Input from the local communities is very important, as they use the nature reserves regularly and make us aware of problems such as fly-tipping or certain wildlife species they may have seen. As a Trust we encourage local communities to be involved through different activities, where they are working alongside staff and volunteers to have a positive influence on our environment. The biggest input can be from our members, their financial support, their voice is crucial for the welfare of the trust and it’s great to think that so many local people are appreciative of the wildlife & environment in our area.

What are the benefits of connecting communities to their local environment?

There are a number of benefits: We can build relationships with communities and through our education programme we can pass knowledge onto the next generation. By building up relationships we can share information, learn from each other and we can help local people appreciate and take ownership of their local reserve.

Can you describe your favorite nature reserve in Sheffield and Rotherham?

My favourite reserve is Wyming Brook and my second favourite is Blacka Moor.

Has the current financial climate had any effect on your work?

There is still funding available for projects, however it is more competitive. Chris Grice, our Fundraising Officer writes the large funding bids for projects, whilst I write smaller scale bids for projects, which I have developed within my role. We share information with Chris about our aims for the work. The bids have to be presented well to secure the funding.

In your opinion, what are the most important aspects of the work you do? And what are your main priorities?

I manage a Living Landscape area in the North of Sheffield and Rotherham known as the Living Don. This is a suite of green corridors that runs through the heart of Sheffield & Rotherham that we have identified as being important for wildlife & I work with other organizations and private landowners to identify and deliver improvements to land use & management in order to create better connectivity of the varying habitats in these areas for the benefit of wildlife & people. The next phase of this project is called Rotherham Rivers – this is a new project that starts in September 2013 and concentrates on making habitat improvements to 12 sites located on the River Rother & River Don over the next 3 years.
I look after 7 nature reserves within this Living Don area, which is a yearly ongoing task of land management, improvements and maintenance as outlined in our management plans for the reserves. Being a charity we obviously need funding to carry out these works and I am continually working with my colleagues to identify funding streams and working up funding applications to cover the cost of the works involved.
I also manage our land management team that carries out the majority of the works across our nature reserves and other project sites.

Why do you think local councils should continue to support such projects?

Because both Sheffield City Council and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council are generally very supportive of the work that Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust does in the local area. We work very closely with a number of departments to achieve the aims and objectives of the Living Don project.

What do you find most rewarding about your work... and why?

The most rewarding part of my job is that through my actions and decisions I can make a positive difference to our nature reserves and other sites within the Living Don area for the benefit of wildlife and people. It is always a great feeling and often relief when we hear that we have secured funding for the projects that we have developed, and this enables us to carry out necessary habitat management works or access improvements. I really enjoy the opportunity to get onto the nature reserves and monitor the wildlife for myself where possible, and it is also nice to receive sightings of species that may be new to the reserve. It is also very rewarding to continually learn new things and improve my own knowledge – the natural world is so vast that we are still finding species that we never knew existed so there is always going to be opportunities to learn within the environmental sector.