Stages

FREE Nature werkt graag met studenten. We zien een meerwaarde in het opleiden van jonge mensen en onderhouden graag contacten met de opleidingen in de buurt van onze gebieden. Wij bieden een afwisselende stages waarin studenten  veel kennis kunnen opdoen over natuurlijke begrazing en contacten kunnen opbouwen met organisaties en vakmensen in het werkveld.

Wij zijn op zoek naar enthousiaste en flexibele studenten die van aanpakken weten. FREE Nature heeft geen kantoor, het is daarom belangrijk dat studenten zelfstandig kunnen werken.

Op dit moment zijn de volgende stageonderwerpen beschikbaar:

Heb je  interesse in een van de onderwerpen of heb je vragen, mail dan naar stage@freenature.nl.

Eerste wisentkalf 2021 Maashorst © Arjen Boerman

Academic thesis and/or internship: Habitat and diet preferences (Wageningen University, English only)

The Foundation for Restoring European Ecosystems, in short FREE Nature, is an organization that focuses on the recovery and development of ‘wild’ nature. The core of their activity is the restoration of natural processes, namely natural grazing; introduction and management of large herbivores of a wide variety of species and breeds (from semi wild Highland, Galloway, Rode Geus and Sayaguesa cattle, Konik horses to European bison and water buffalo). The species and breeds differ in aspects such as exterior, social behaviour, life history, foraging behaviour, movement, thermoregulation and behaviour towards humans. To facilitate the process of nature restoration, an important objective of FREE Nature is to understand the suitability and ecological impact of these various species and breeds in different terrain types.

FREE Nature in collaboration with Wageningen University offer various thesis or internship positions, the topic of which all fall within the main research framework defined above. Currently, these are specific questions that FREE Nature would like to see addressed: 

FREE Nature uses different species of large herbivores in different areas, which may lead to different impacts on the vegetation. Also, in some areas multiple species of large herbivores are used. FREE Nature is looking for students who will study the habitat and diet preferences of different herbivore species through direct observations and analyses of data obtained from individuals with GPS collars. By comparing data obtained from different sites with different large herbivore assemblages possible competition and niche separation between the different species may be assessed.

  1. FREE Nature uses species that are still relatively wild or closely related to wild ancestors, such as the Konik and Highland cattle, to introduce natural grazing pressure in nature reserves to compensate for the lack of natural populations of large grazers. This may benefit biodiversity in general. FREE Nature is looking for students that study which species (e.g. birds, mammals, insects, plants) benefit from the presence of these large herbivores and whether there are also species that are negatively affected.
  2. FREE Nature uses species that are still relatively wild or closely related to wild ancestors, such as the konik and Highland cattle, to introduce natural grazing pressure in nature reserves to compensate for the lack of natural populations of large grazers. FREE Nature is looking for students that study differences in ecological impacts of natural grazing (year-round, low natural densities) using primitive breeds versus (agri)cultural grazing (usually higher unnatural densities, quite often only seasonal grazing), using more productive cattle breeds managed by farmers.
  3. Student profile: The student seeks to obtain experience with nature management in practice. The student is willing to spend much time in the field. Preferably, the student has knowledge of flora, especially of riverine systems. Because field work has to be done at locations with poor public transport connectivity, a car and a driving licence are desired. As FREE Nature is a small foundation with no central office (employees work from a home office), a high degree of self-dependence is required.

Al internships will entail fieldwork in several areas throughout the Netherlands, as well as analyses of (newly acquired and/or existing) data and report writing.

Required courses (WUR): Ecological Methods 1. Animal Ecology (or similar). For various subjects, experience with GIS is a pre.

Rode Geus op Slikken van de Heen

Academic thesis and/or internship: Rewilding the legal status of large and mega herbivores (Tilburg University, english only)

Rewilding is becoming mainstream within nature conservation. More evidence on the role of large and mega herbivores under natural conditions and within natural occurring densities is being discovered each year. While some lost species could be reintroduced for others poxy species should be used, of which some are of domestic origin (i.e. rewilded cattle and horses).

Rewilding within Europe usually starts with on the ground small projects which slowly grow in size, meaning the animals at the start live in fenced nature reserves. In many cases, even in the long run,  the reserves  will have to be fenced to prevent animals from 1) wandering into anthropogenic landscapes; i.e. agricultural or urban landscapes, or 2) animals dispersing so widely that their effects on ecosystem functioning becomes homeopathic (to low density of animals). Within these (fenced) reserves, site managers threat the animals as much as possible as wildlife, res nullius, while legally these are kept animals. Housing of kept animals is regulated on a European level through the “Animal Health Regulation,” which originates mainly from agricultural practice and (market) interests and is the basis for national policies. Legislation states that all kept animals have a owner which is responsible and liable for the animals doing and welfare. Legislation assumes the owner has control over its possessions; animals, while in practice the animals are subject of de-domestication or rewilding, implying gradually losing control.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (1995) makes a differentiation in diversity within species, between species and between ecosystems. An ecosystem is defined as “a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.” As the role of large and mega herbivores is now evident, Trouwborst and Svenning (2022) concluded that countries have a legal obligation to remove legislative barriers for large herbivore grazing. The Convention on Biological Diversity has been ratified by 196 nations including the EU countries.

We are looking for a student which can make a comparison and balancing between nature and agriculture legislation and policies and who can lay a legal basis under the rewilding of animals. Possibly a differentiation should be made between species of wild and of domestic origin. As animals are in the process of rewilding, hopping between agricultural and wildlife legislation is not common practice. European law does not (yet) acknowledge wild horses and cattle as wildlife species. Law in many cases is either black or white, while the amount of wildness within groups of animals come in many shades of grey, depending on species, herd size, surface area of the nature reserve and amount of time in which the animals have been rewilded.

Wisenten

HBO: Terreingebruik wisenten, exmoors en taurossen op de Maashorst

Minimale stageduur: 16 weken

Met directe observaties aan de dieren wordt vastgesteld welke soorten gedrag de dieren vertonen in de verschillende habitattypen. Dit gedrag betreft naast grazen, snoeien, schillen, lopen, herkauwen en rusten ook zandbaden, schuren en sociale interactie binnen de soort en tussen soorten onderling. Bij foerageergedrag kan ook gemeten worden hoe vaak dieren aan gras/kruidachtigen eten of aan struiken/kleine bomen en welke categorie bomen dit betreft (den, spar of loofhout). Dit kan echter alleen als de bomen of struiken boven het gras uitsteken.

Aanvullend is er GPS-data beschikbaar verzameld middels halsband zenders. Veldobservaties en GPS-metingen vullen elkaar zodoende aan om zo antwoord te geven op de volgende vragen:

  1. Welke gedragingen vertonen de dieren in de verschillende habitattypen?
  2. Hoe actief zijn de dieren in de verschillende vegetatietypen?
  3. Hoe vaak (percentage foerageergedrag) eten wisenten, taurossen en exmoorpony’s van gras/kruidachtigen t.o.v. struiken en kleine bomen? Hoeveel wordt er geschild t.o.v. gesnoeid?
  4. Welke boom- en struiksoorten worden geprefereerd?
  5. Wat zijn de verschillen hierin tussen wisent, exmoor en tauros?

Onderzoek maakt deel uit van een groter onderzoeksprogramma waarbij er reeds een vast protocol is ontwikkeld. Omdat gedrag per seizoen kan verschillen, zijn metingen aan alle soorten in alle seizoenen nodig. Voor de wisent zijn inmiddels referentiegegevens beschikbaar van voor- en najaar (2 stageperiodes). Om de data van exmoorpony en tauros te kunnen vergelijken met die van wisenten wordt 3 dagen in de week onderzoek gedaan aan exmoorpony of tauros en één dag in de week aan wisent. Gecombineerd met de al aanwezige data voor wisent kan deze soort met een van de andere soorten vergeleken worden. Bij voorkeur wordt dit door 2 studenten tegelijk gedaan, zodat van dat seizoen 2 dagen wisentgegevens beschikbaar zijn.

Wisent schilt boom op de Maashorst

MBO: Veldwerkstage

Minimale stageduur: 10 weken

Binnen FREE Nature zijn er verschillende mogelijkheden om ervaring op te doen met de dagelijkse praktijk van het beheer van FREE Nature. Je loopt mee met één van onze beheerders en voert zelfstandig controles uit. Werkzaamheden omvatten onder andere:

  • Diercontrole
  • Rastercontrole & verrichten reparatiewerkzaamheden
  • Assisteren tijdens voorbereiden vangactie, o.a. opbouwen vangkraal
  • Informeren bezoekers