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Student Naturalist Awards Scheme

Newcastle University student Micaela Mossop at work at GPNR. Photo © Chris Wren

Our Student Naturalist ‘Awards Scheme’ aims to support the next generation of naturalists through the development of key skills and provision of practical experience in multiple aspects of conservation, including field experience, research, wardening and communications. It aims to provide opportunities for personal and professional development while simultaneously building the confidence of early career conservationists through mentoring and networking opportunities, all of which is made possible through the unique mix of opportunities provided by NHSN and our supporters.

NHSN boasts a rich history built on environmental education, study and conservation, as well as close, professional collaboration with academic institutions. We believe that in our age of pressing environmental concerns, involvement in the environmental field has never been more important, and understand that this, coupled with increasing interest in conservation, has made the sector incredibly competitive. This means that now, more than ever, aspiring conservationists must set themselves apart from the pack. This is exactly what we hope to achieve through the current scheme: providing students from local institutions with the skills necessary to advance in their chosen field, and in doing so, ensuring that North East Nature is held in safe hands over the years to come.

About the Student Naturalist Award Scheme

In its simplest form, our new scheme is a tiered system which allows students in higher education to accumulate points based on the successful completion of relevant activities, each likely to be of benefit to career prospects. Participants may earn the rank of Academic Associate, Academic Supporter and Academic Ambassador, with each awarded based on a demonstrable commitment to North East nature and natural history. Entrants will receive a formal certificate and official recognition by the Natural History Society in an awards ceremony upon completion.

Why participate? 

  • Join NHSN as a student member and benefit from publications, free access to events and much more.
  • Access to Gosforth Nature Reserve (GNR) – a wildlife haven on the outskirts of Newcastle.
  • Formal recognition of your dedication to natural history and a potential academic reference.
  • Opportunities to conduct talks, lead activities and carry out dissertation projects at GNR.
  • The opportunity to contribute to Northumbrian Naturalist, a respected scientific journal, and our members’ magazine, North East Nature.
  • Close involvement with a respected institution, first established in 1829.
  • Involvement in a friendly community of like-minded individuals and the chance to learn from natural history experts.


Academic Associate – 100 points. This can include conservation volunteering, communications and the attendance of field trips.

Academic Supporter  – 350 points. Achieved through a mix of voluntary work and submitted work. Submissions can include research papers, local interest articles and talks to NHSN members.

Academic Ambassador – 700 points. Achieved with the successful undertaking of a diverse range of activities and considerable work from your own initiative. Could you deliver a ‘1829 talk’, lead on a research project or publish a paper in Northumbrian Naturalist?

How to earn points?

There are many ways to earn “points” as part of our Students Naturalist Awards scheme, including tasks designed to get students ‘out and about’ in an effort to build their practical conservation and public engagement skills. There are also opportunities to engage in natural history communications, via the submission of research and written articles, and to partake in scientific research at our flagship Gosforth Nature Reserve. A few examples of what candidates can do to earn the respective awards are listed below:

  • Deliver an ‘1829’ talk to NHSN members, supporters and local students (60 points)
  • Research Project at Gosforth Nature Reserve (40 points)
  • Practical conservation work at Gosforth Nature Reserve (30 points for three hours)
  • Work as a volunteer warden at Gosforth Nature Reserve (30 points for three hours)
  • Submit written work to NHSN publications (30 points)
  • Attend and volunteer at NHSN Winter talks (10 points)

A full list of activities with links to further information, can be downloaded here.

Get involved!

To find out more about the NHSN Student Naturalist Awards Scheme, or to register your interest, please contact

Dr Mark Whittingham, Professor of Applied Ecology at Newcastle University, says:

“This is an excellent opportunity for students, both postgraduate and undergraduate, to supplement their academic work with real-world experience of the environmental sector. NHSN’s Student Awards Scheme is flexible, capable of fitting around even the most taxing of academic schedules, and provides something for everyone. Whether their interests lie in practical conservation, research, communications or public engagement.”