Meet James Milton, David Streeter Wildlife Champions Award winner 2023
Emma Chaplin caught up with the 2023 David Streeter Wildlife Champions Award winner James Milton.
James was presented with his Award by Sussex Wildlife Trust Trustee Sean Ashworth at the Trust's AGM held on Saturday 4 November at the Ropetackle Arts Centre in Shoreham-by-Sea.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in Kent and have always had an interest in animals and nature, but I visited Sussex often as a child as my grandparents lived in Bexhill. I became determined to get properly involved in the field after my mum took me to the Grand Canyon as a birthday present a few years ago. It was such an amazing experience which inspired me to learn how I could help protect our world. My A-Levels weren't related to conservation at all and I'd been working at Tesco for five years after school, but I was fortunate enough to gain a place onto Sussex University's Life Sciences foundation year which allowed me to continue onto my degree in Ecology and Conservation.
You are involved with both dolphins and butterflies?
Working with dolphins... wasn't initially planned! When I started at Sussex University, I wanted to get involved in a local conservation project and the Sussex Dolphin Project (SDP) needed an administration volunteer. A year later, they employed me as a part-time Project Support Officer. Part of my role at the project is developing ecology workshops for all ages and I believe everything is connected so the workshops don't only cover marine conservation, but also, terrestrial conservation, habitat restoration, taxonomy and other important conservation topics. Excitingly, I also manage SDP's terrestrial rewilding project, Shoreham Port’s Conservation Corridor.
In terms of the butterflies, in 2021 I decided to try to photograph all 59 native species of butterfly. I currently sit at 45. As a result of my love for butterflies, I signed up to become the Vice-Chair of the Sussex Branch of Butterfly Conservation. It was actually the Chair, David Brown, who was kind enough to nominate me for the David Streeter Award.
What are your favourite wild places?
Malling Down, Park Corner Heath and Rowland Wood.
What species of butterfly in Sussex makes you most happy when you see them?
Small Blue and Duke of Burgundy.
How did you feel when you heard you'd been given the David Streeter Wildlife Champions Award?
Shocked! Really honoured that what I've been doing has been recognised.
What prize did you choose?
Cash, towards a future master’s degree in research (MRes). I hope to get a PhD and take the academic route to become a University lecturer.
What would you say to a young person who might be interested in conservation but not sure how to go about it?
Ultimately it's about putting yourself out there to organisations who need support. I went for a volunteer position with the Dolphin Trust as admin officer, not because I wanted to do admin, but because that's what they needed. Doing that can get you a leg up, you learn about how the organisation works and gain other skills.
Who are your heroes?
I very much value anyone who has a doctorate or professorship. They are very knowledgeable in their field and you can learn so much from them.
Tell us something about you we might not know.
I play the piano and enjoy music composition, especially for games and film.
Follow James on Instagram