Maria has excellent direct experience of engaging communities with environmental projects most recently on a placement to Uganda with the Mount Elgon Tree Planting Programme who are working towards delivering two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – Climate Action; and Sustainable Cities and Communities. The project mostly works with communities in rural mountainous areas who are motivated to plant trees because they required income, and to grow food for their families therefore the project is focused on agro-forestry and requires a deep understanding of the culture of the people who live in these depleted and often inaccessible areas.
For the previous 7 years, Maria has been the Wales Manager for Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s Community Outreach Programme – Grow Wild. The aim of which is to bring people together to value wildflowers and fungi. Maria has worked with communities all across Wales to establish what will benefit each community and how to achieve outcomes that will benefit as many people as possible but also serve the needs of the environment, particularly if the local area has any level of conservation status, e.g. SSSI. Many of the projects are located in tourist areas, for example three projects in Snowdonia National Park, two in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and one in the Brecon Beacons National Park, but also tourist destinations such as Prestatyn where the needs of visitors form a major part of the decision-making process.
In addition to her work experience Maria has a love of the Welsh mountains and spends most of her free time hiking in the Beacons, other national parks across the UK and also further afield in countries such as Albania, Montenegro, Greece and Nepal and so has experienced first hand being a tourist/visitor to areas with similar requirements. Her love of the great outdoors has led her to sit on a variety of committees and boards including Cardiff Naturalist Society, Glamorgan Fungus Group, Ramblers Cymru, Tiger Bay Ramblers and to undertake suitable training for example Outdoor Emergency First Aid in April 2019.
She is a Bee Friendly Champion on behalf of the Welsh Government which involves working with communities to enable them to take positive action for Pollinators. She has a good understanding land use and the complexities of working with people and the natural environment. During 2019, she undertook a 3-day course at the Centre for Alternative Technology on Rewilding and also Place-Based Citizen-Science Training with Cardiff University. Previously she has undertaken a variety of training courses including Management Planning for Nature Conservation
In summary, as a keen hill walker and committed environmentalist, Maria is bought in to ensuring that areas such as Waterfall Country work for the communities who live there but also meet the needs of visitors who impact the environment and the economy.