Our new recruits: welcome to Team Squirrel!

It’s a really exciting time to be working for Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels. Earlier this year we announced that the Scottish Wildlife Trust has been awarded a grant of £2.46 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), for a new phase in the project called ‘Developing Community Action’.

Thanks to support from HLF and the Scottish LEADER programme, this five-year phase is focusing on engaging with local communities, and recruiting many more volunteers in areas where red squirrels most need our help. To help us achieve this aim, we’ve recruited four new members of staff. A big welcome to Stephanie, Liz, Gill and Neil!


Dr Stephanie Johnstone: Conservation Officer – South West Scotland

I’ve been working in the environment industry for 17 years, with a particular passion and expertise in mammal research and conservation. Originally from Australia, I moved to Scotland ten years ago following the completion of my doctoral research. From 2007 to 2011 I worked for Red Squirrels in South Scotland and I am very pleased to be back working on red squirrel conservation in the south with the SSRS team. My role focuses on supporting land owners and volunteers in their red squirrel conservation activities and helping to ensure we achieve a coordinated, landscape-scale approach to our efforts.

From the first time I saw red squirrels I was completely enchanted, watching them dash about their ‘highway in the sky’, jumping effortlessly from branch to branch across the wood. With the help of local communities we can conserve our native red squirrels for the long-term so that many more generations will be able to enjoy the antics of these wonderful animals.


Liz Gunby: Community Engagement Officer – South Scotland

Originally an art teacher, my background is in Education and Community Development. My role is to recruit new volunteers and support our loyal team of stalwarts: their commitment underpins our project. I will also be helping to develop ‘Red Squirrel Networks’ across South Scotland. There is a role for everyone, and we will offer comprehensive training to help people develop the skills they need to become a Squirrel Champion!

Myself and a team of volunteers with additional support needs started working in partnership with Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels in 2007. Together, we learnt how to build squirrel feeder boxes for the spring survey, and those of us who were able to put the boxes up in beautiful woodland locations. Helping with important conservation work made us feel so proud and useful.

I’m so excited to be part of a project which has people, as well as conservation, at its heart – this really can change people’s lives.


Gill Hatcher: Communications and Community Engagement Officer

I’m Gill and I’m the Communications and Community Engagement Officer for the project. My background is in product and graphic design, but I’ve always had a passion for conservation, getting involved through creative projects and volunteering. I’ll be helping to get the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels message out to as many people as possible through press and social media, as well as supporting the Conservation and Engagement Officers in developing their public engagement activities.

The first time I saw a red squirrel, it was running across a busy road as a heavy lorry ploughed towards it! It was both exhilarating and horrifying. Fortunately the wee guy made it safely to the other side and quickly scampered off into the trees.


Neil O’Donnell: Project Administrator

My name is Neil O’Donnell and I’m the Project Administrator for the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel Project. This involves supporting staff and volunteers to make sure they have everything they need to do their vital work. I love bird watching (especially seabirds), garden moth trapping, and getting involved with citizen science projects. I’m from Ayrshire and love heading back down to the South West coast when I get the chance.

The first red squirrel I encountered was on a day trip to the picturesque Isle of Arran as a teenager. I remember seeing one flit across a rope bridge suspended over the main road into Brodick. Result! More recently, while watching a small group of crested tits on a nut feeder in the Cairngorm National Park, a red squirrel decided to gatecrash proceedings. It was fantastic to get so close to such an elusive species.

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