Josh Twining is a conservation biologist and the new Project Officer for the new Dragons in the Hills project, a three year National Lottery Heritage funded project led by the Amphibian and Reptile Groups UK , Mourne, Newry and Down District Council through the AONB teams and the Herpetological Society of Ireland.
The project aims to reconnect local communities with their natural landscapes through the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. The overall plan will be to hold a variety of public events as well as specific outreach events offered to community groups and schools. In the future these will consist of workshops, field trips, and guided walks and talks. We hope to develop strong ties with local schools and commmunity groups, as well as developing an engaged team of citizens scientists in our catchment area of the Ring of Gullion, the Mournes and Strangford Lough and Lecale.
During these strange times and given the lock down, we are looking to adapt to our current situation. We are still very keen to collect what monitoring data we can for our key species, the common lizard and the smooth newt. The aim of this is to produce up to date distribution data to help inform the management of these species.
How to get involved: Volunteers
We are hoping to reach volunteers who would be interested in joining us, in the future this will include training courses and standardised surveys. However, currently we are hoping to find people who live in our local catchment areas, and get them to keep an eye out for lizards on any walks they go on and report sightings back to us.
We are very flexible to aims and requirements and are happy to receive just sighting information (what did you see, where was it (grid reference or map pin drop), when did you see it?), or if you would be interested we can also discuss other useful information that you could collect while out walking and spotting the dragons in our hills.
How to get involved: Landowners
We are still very keen to collect what monitoring data we can for our key species, the common lizard and the smooth newt. The aim of this is to produce up to date distribution data to help inform the management of these species. We are planning to conduct seasonal surveying for our species which can only be conducted at this time of year, with strict social distancing protocols in place.We have already surveyed much of the public / council owned natural areas, however currently we are hoping to find local landowners who would allow us access to their land to survey it.
We have a special interest in upland areas, but any land which has grassland, heath or scrub would be of interest and we would be eager to survey. If you are interested in finding out if you have any protected species living on your land, please contact Josh.
How to get involved: Schools, community groups, etc.
Josh is offering schools/community groups in the area online classes in biology / natural science topics led by an expert. He is happy to discuss your needs and arrange specifics.
He is offering online classes to schools for children of a wide age of ranging (from P5 and up) within the project catchment area. These classes will cover a variety of topics and be tailored to the specific age groups but will have options to include sessions on the following topics: “Nature and biodiversity”, “Reptiles and amphibians of Ireland” and “Natural landscapes and conservation”.
The aim will be to provide members of the public with some baseline biology knowledge of animals in Ireland and their associated habitats. We are very flexible to aims and requirements of specific schools/ classes/groups, and are open to discussions and direction that will assist in the enhancement of the students education and enjoyment.
If you would be interested in getting involved please contact Josh to discuss further and send any questions / queries or sightings to Josh on [email protected]