Earlier today I attended an event hosted by Essex Wildlife Trust at Writtle College, near Chelmsford, encouraging people to volunteer in wildlife conservation and specifically taking part in ecological surveys. It was refreshing to see a very good turnout and people of all ages attending (albeit the ‘usual’ older retired conservationist was, it should be said, very well represented).

We were presented with a large range of exciting opportunities and each speaker argued their case for why we should support their specific cause. The event highlighted the competition there is not only between conservation bodies but between conservation projects; for volunteers, for money and for recognition. Volunteers can only give a certain amount of their time and can only therefore realistically commit themselves to one or two projects. This raises the question of which causes should one support and why? In this case I was personally drawn to the coastal survey and marine conservation tasks, perhaps due to my own proximity to the coast and my growing interest in coastal change. Nonetheless I could still choose to undertake hedgerow surveys, butterfly surveys, grassland habitat surveys, ‘riverwatch’ or helping to protect local wildlife sites – and all of these are the opportunities available just from Essex Wildlife Trust! I could look further afield to the Conservation Volunteers, Buglife, Froglife, the RSPB, the National Trust or other bodies that specialise in wildlife and environmental conservation. They may all be working in the same field and moving broadly in the same direction but they are in competition with each other both for funding and for volunteers.

Thinking about this side of things suddenly makes your decision much harder. Suddenly one is not only deciding which specific project to support but also, although it might not be at the forefront of your mind, which organisation to support. There are many projects out there. I suggest that you look around and find something that interests you personally or could improve your skills in an area you wish to pursue. Importantly however, don’t rule out any project straight away. By trying out something you wouldn’t at first have thought about you gain a different perspective and better understanding which can only ever be a good thing. Projects are crying out for volunteers. If you can give any of your time conservation bodies will never say no to you being involved.