I currently work as an Apprentice Ecology and Conservation Officer for The Donkey Sanctuary. My role, like many in conservation, varies with the seasons; in winter I do a lot of practical work, while in Spring and Summer there is a stronger focus on surveying. I couldn’t ask for a better team to work with and the volunteers are amazing!
I studied Biosciences at Durham University, specializing in the Ecology route. My course was research oriented and personally I feel it carries less relevance to my current job than my volunteering experience. As I finished Uni, things were just about settling down after the pandemic. This meant that opportunities to volunteer were thankfully up and running again.
I began volunteering with National Trust Branscombe, The Donkey Sanctuary and the RSPB, eventually settling with RSPB Aylesbeare for 9 months. Whilst volunteering, I tutored A level Chemistry and Biology 6 evenings a week which really helped me support myself. Whilst volunteering I took nature photos which have been great memories to look back on.
Ask questions. Rangers and volunteers are willing to share their knowledge. Whether it’s the theory behind the practical work you’re doing, species identification or what common questions to expect at interview, there is always something to learn.
Take responsibility. With volunteering it can often be up to you to choose what level of responsibility you take on. An example of taking responsibility could be offering to send out the volunteer email for the next work week. In general, take time to get to know how the place operates first and then ask what you can help with.
Commit. After a period of searching for a place you’d like to volunteer, consider dedicating time to just one. This is important because it influences whether a charity can justify the costs of training you up. Additionally, by having something like ‘residential volunteer’ on your CV, it may give weight to how much experience you have. Conservation is a small field and being known at a reserve could set you apart in an interview.