Meet Grace Johnson: Hedgehog Street Officer
In this series, we chat to the dedicated staff members, conservation partners and volunteers at PTES. We find out why each of them chose a career in wildlife conservation, what they find rewarding about their work and what they love most about what they do.
Hedgehog Street Officer
When did you first join PTES and why?
I joined PTES back in August 2019 after applying for a very enticing ‘Hedgehog Officer’ role. I had previously been working with bats and was ready for a new challenge with a different British mammal species.
What’s your role and what is the most rewarding part of it?
I’m the Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street, a campaign run jointly by PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS). Hedgehog Street raises awareness of the decline in hedgehogs and how people can help them. It’s really rewarding chatting to our dedicated Hedgehog Champions, especially when they’ve gone above and beyond to make their garden wildlife-friendly and are rewarded with a hedgehog sighting. Hedgehogs are a wonderful species to work with because everyone loves them, and in making changes to the garden for hedgehogs, it will benefit other species too.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
In early 2021 I did some filming for BBC Breakfast along with a fantastic Hedgehog Champion named Sam. We talked about the decline of hedgehogs and how people could help. My role involves a lot of media work but this was particularly exciting as the important Hedgehog Street message was reaching a national audience. My parents were very excited!
Tell us about a project you’re currently involved with
2021 was Hedgehog Street’s 10th birthday year as the campaign was launched back in 2011. We had all sorts of exciting plans over the year including the Hedgehog Garden Challenge and the Hedgehog Street Bake Off. It was fantastic to celebrate the anniversary of the project, and also to reach the milestone of 100,000 Hedgehog Champions.
Do you have a special love for a particular species and why?
I can’t choose just one… There’s always a special place in your heart for those you’ve seen in the wild, and I’m lucky enough to have seen some incredible species including manta rays, orangutans, pygmy elephants and various whale species. Here in the UK I definitely have a soft spot for bats, particularly the rare Barbastelle bat, a woodland specialist. Recently I was lucky enough to have a close encounter with one during a survey, it was so exciting. My home town of Whitley Bay in the north east also boasts a grey seal colony and various dolphin species along the coastline, so I always look forward to seeing them when I go home!
Tell us your favourite wildlife fact
Most British bats echolocate at frequency that’s too high for humans to hear. Any calls that we can actually hear are social calls, which I love the idea of – I just picture them flying past each other saying hi.
What’s one thing everyone can do to help wildlife in their area?
Gardens can be such an important resource for wildlife, moreso than people think. With that in mind I’d encourage people to share their space with wildlife and welcome them in. It’s not all about the charismatic lions and giraffes in documentaries, our native British wildlife is also fascinating, but sadly struggling.
Do you have a recommendation for a nature book, film or TV programme?
The anthology Women on Nature is fab, compiled by Katherine Norbury, it’s a beautiful collection of natural history writing by under-represented voices. Wilding by Isabella Tree is also a great read and shows the power of rewilding.
Find out more about Hedgehog Street and how you can get involved helping to protect Britain’s favourite mammal here:
Lead image by Fiona Oades, Hedgehog Champion. Profile photo by Hugh Warwick.