Meet some of our volunteers
3 minute read
Ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer with us? Our volunteers Kerrie and Sean give us the lowdown and why they decided to get involved with our work, what they’ve been up to and what they’ve learned from the experience
I became a volunteer for the Marine Conservation Society nearly 2 years ago, while undertaking a 10-day beach cleaning walk around the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Since then, I have been involved with the Great British Beach Clean, worked on a stand for a COP26 event, delivered workshops and more recently helped organise a three-day beach clean on the Isle of Ulva.
Volunteering with the Marine Conservation Society has provided me with opportunities to both learn and develop skills in many different areas. When I was asked if I’d be interested in undertaking training which would allow me to be involved with the education roadshow, I knew that it was the perfect thing to help with my confidence in speaking in front of a group.
I shadowed Kirsty Crawford (the Scottish Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager) for the first two schools and then went on to present the workshop at two more schools on my own. Despite being very nervous beforehand, I had a fantastic time speaking to the school children and felt really positive that I'd achieved something completely out of my comfort zone.
Recently, I was involved with a large beach cleaning effort on Ulva, a small community-owned island just off Mull, Scotland. When I’d visited Ulva previously, I was shocked by the amount of marine litter that had washed up on its shores and I knew that I wanted to come back and try to remove more. In April, a team of amazing volunteers worked together for three days and, with the help of local residents, plus the use of boats from two local wildlife companies and the local fish farm, we were able to remove more rubbish from Ulva than I ever dreamed was possible. It definitely took some co-ordination, but it showed me just what is possible when different groups of people are willing to work together. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of rubbish left on Ulva's beaches, but we hope to return later this year to remove more.
For me, volunteering with the Marine Conservation Society is about connecting with people, learning and hopefully encouraging others to think more about our ocean and wildlife, and how we can all play a part in helping to protect them.
A few years back whilst on a train journey, I was reading a book called ‘Stung!’ by Lisa-Ann Gershwin, a non-fiction science book about Jellyfish. I thought a nice book on Jellyfish would cheer me up. Unfortunately, the book was pretty harrowing, using the little squidgy animals as a proxy for the effects of human activities on the ocean. The book elicited such visceral emotions that I ended up visually upset; much to the awkwardness of those who sat near me! I decided at that moment that I wanted to help the ocean in any way I could.
Having followed the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) excellent work for several years as a member, I decided to become an education volunteer. At the time, I was a science teacher and felt it was the right way to use my skills and experience to help the charity.
After a big career change and completing a Marine Conservation Master’s degree, I now not only volunteer but work in conservation - I’m currently helping develop technology to mitigate some of the adverse effects that humans have on the ocean. I still believe, however, that the most important work I do is as an education volunteer with MCS.
This year, I’ve been back in classrooms across Fife and Perth and Kinross delivering education sessions. In these sessions we talk about the conservation issues affecting Scotland’s marine wildlife, MCS’s role and what the students can do to help our ocean. The sessions are well developed and very engaging with various hands-on activities and experiments. It has been amazing to be in front of classes again and the students have been, without exception, enthusiastic and eager to contribute.
Working as an education volunteer with Marine Conservation Society has been incredibly rewarding. As well as the lovely souvenirs students make for me, I often return home with a feeling that I have truly made a positive impact. Working with these young people fills me with optimism and has helped with my own climate anxieties.
The result of many of the books and documentaries on the fate of our ocean can be very upsetting and often makes us feel powerless. From volunteering with Marine Conservation Society and with young people in particular, I no longer believe that that is the case.