A PASSION for helping the environment is the burning motivation for Gill Weyman, the co-founder of Cork Nature Network (CNN), an organisation that works to protect and promote wildlife through education, conservation and research.
Gill, originally from Devon in the UK, where she grew up on a farm has been working in CNN for the past five years.
When not volunteering with the environment protection organisation, Gill works as a researcher with University College Cork and Fota Wildlife Park studying ladybirds.
Gill said seeing the beauty of the natural world as a youngster was part of the impetus behind working with the natural world both professionally and personally.
“I care about the natural world. Habitat loss is and will be a huge problem for many of our wildlife. I believe it’s time to try to stop this and to make a difference for future generations so that they can see just how amazing the natural world is.”
Chatting about the benefits of volunteering, Gill said meeting like-minded souls that are enthusiastic and care about the environment was a big part of the lure of her charity work as well as the drive to make a difference.
“The buzz from when everyone comes together is amazing. Before Covid-19 we used to organise food, music, and tours of the Beaumont quarry site where we do a lot of work, and enjoy a lovely afternoon in the outdoors.
“Seeing the volunteers all come together, contribute and the buzz of the event make me see how worthwhile our efforts really are.”
Beaumont quarry is a disused quarry near Cork city.
CNN has been working with Cork City Council to protect the site for both wildlife and recreation.
The quarry is home to a number of rare flora such as the Little Robin and Pale Flax as well as a number of semi-natural habitats that provide homes and food to a variety of fauna including bats, birds and insects, including the seven-spot ladybird.
Gill described the quarry as an “oasis in the city”.
CNN also does a lot of work with Cork city otters.
During 2016 and 2017, CNN conducted a citizen science survey of otters in the River Bride in Blackpool to find out more about the mammals.
The nature group co-founder said that she has learned a thing or two from volunteering such as taking things one step at a time and the importance of not spreading yourself too thin.
“It is very easy to overstretch yourself and it is important to learn to delegate and be prepared to focus on one thing at a time.”
Gill, who studied environmental studies in the UK before moving to Ireland said, since the pandemic, there have been a lot of changes to how the volunteer organisation operates.
“We had to adapt. Most of our work is online. Some of our volunteers, I have never physically met!”
Gill said there is possibly more interest in the public events held by CNN since they all moved online, perhaps because of convenience.
“The online events are very different, they are not as personal as the face-to-face sessions, but we have had good attendance and interest at the events we have held.”
Gill also said there was more work involved in organising the online events and highlighted the increased administration element of this new part of their work.
“There is preparing the event and promoting it and it is harder to engage with people.”
Referencing some of the good and bad things she has noticed in recent times, Gill said chemical weedkiller is something she sees too much of, but she is delighted to see the pollinator projects to help provide a habitat for bees cropping up across the city.
“Definitely more effort is being made to help the environment, but there is a lot of work to do and it is too early to tell if it will be enough.”
Gill said CNN also manages a number of green spaces across the city, such as Parkowen in South Parish where they plan to start events and tours in the coming months and years.
Chatting about how people can get involved, the CNN co-founder said: “We would love people to join us to learn about what we do and help us in our work. Go to our web page www.corknaturenetwork.ie.”