For any environmentalist, working as a conservation volunteer is a great way to get outside and enjoy the natural world – especially as the days get longer and warmer. Whether your passion is the plants in your local park or wood or learning about ecosystems overseas, volunteering can also be the first step to a job in conservation. If you want a wildlife conservation job, a marine conservation job, to environmental education, or are simply eager to use spare time look after local ecosystems, as a conservation volunteer you can gain experience and learn to look after ecosystems.
There are amazing conservation projects underway all over the world – some will be near you and some in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Help is always needed so there are plenty of opportunities for volunteering abroad or closer to home. Conservation volunteering is your chance to make a valuable contribution to creating a more sustainable world, increase your environmental knowledge and form sustainable friendships.
1. Environmental education
If we are to understand our world and live sustainably environmental education is key. Whatever our age or wherever we live learning more about the environment that supports us is critical. Some of our sustainable friends working on environmental education include Surfers Against Sewage (SAS ) in the UK, who campaign for cleaner seas and beaches – including visiting schools and organising beach cleans. SAS offer internships of up to a year for students, graduates or anyone with a passion for cleaner seas. If you want to learn more about the issues faced by developing countries, organisations like sustainable friends Global Service Corps bring together volunteers from developed countries with communities in the developing world, to work together in understanding and addressing environmental problems.
2. Wildlife conservation
Conserving populations of wildlife is crucial to preserving the biodiversity that supports the life support systems of our planet. A wealth of work is underway to increase understanding of the species we share the world with and keep their populations healthy. In the US the John Muir Project is a non profit organization dedicated to ensuring ecological management of forests. Alongside scientific research on forest ecology the foundation is currently welcoming volunteers who can document birdlife in forests under threat. In the UK regional wildlife trusts and many other conservation organisations provide opportunities from clearing invasive non native weeds to planting trees.
3. Marine conservation
Just like ecosystems on land, our oceans are under threat from pollution and exploitation of resources. For anyone who loves the sea there are opportunities all around the world for supporting marine conservation. For example, our sustainable friends the Mangrove Action Network are working to protect mangrove habitats that provide the nursery for 75% of commercial tropical fish in Asia and Latin America. These are at risk of clearance for commercial shrimp farming. The organization provide educational resources for schools and welcome volunteers.
Conservation volunteering opportunities range from helping with a one off initiative – like a beach clean collecting plastic, ghost gear and other marine litter to working for weeks or months collecting ecological data. Use our Sustainable World Map to start your own exploration of opportunities to work on environmental conservation projects both in your own community other countries.