By Morgan de Smidt
UNA Bell was named joint recipient of the Conservation Council WA Outstanding Volunteer Award for her significant contributions to the environment sector in the Hills and around Western Australia.
The Jane Brook Catchment Group chairwoman has spent more than 20 years raising awareness of the value of native grasses through her bush care activities in the Hills and publication of educational booklets.
“I was so surprised and delighted to be recognised for the work volunteers do,” Ms Bell said.
Her environmental work began 30 years ago but Ms Bell grew increasingly fascinated with native grasses during her graduate diploma in land care at Curtin University.
“I remember asking what native grasses look like and no one really knew so I went to find out for myself.
“It’s become a bit of an obsession.”
She has led countless Bush Skills for the Hills workshops on native grasses and has produced resources to help grass roots bush care volunteers and residents identify native grasses and make use of her bush care restoration advice.
“It’s very rewarding being able to take people out in the field,” she said.
“Most people cannot tell native grasses from introduced grasses, there is a real lack of appreciation for them, and they are a really important part of our ecosystem.”
Ms Bell currently volunteers two days a week at the WA Herbarium as a research associate working with grass collection and identification.
Alongside her ongoing efforts she is working on a publication titled Native and introduced grasses of South West WA, a culmination of 20 years of her work and research.
The Conservation Council Outstanding Volunteer Award category had more than 15 nominees this year, Lynda Smith was the joint winner alongside Ms Bell.