Engaging with the Ecological Crisis of our Time - Become a Conservation Volunteer

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Conservation volunteers volunteering abroad in the fieldThe world is in the middle of what scientists call “the Sixth Mass Extinction.”  The fifth mass extinction was when the dinosaurs and much of our biodiversity were annihilated from an asteroid impact.  But this time, it is not an asteroid causing the extinction crisis, it is us, the homo-sapiens.

In response to this crisis many people, all over the world, have started to mobilise to turn the tide from environmental destruction to restoration.  Recent examples are how the proposed construction of the Patagonian Dam in Chile that was set to flood thousands of hectares of land to provide hydroelectric power for citizens, was halted by opposition groups to save the rare and iconic Huemul Deer. The illegal pet trade in Costa Rica, where thousands of macaws were being taken from the wild and sold to buyers across the world, has also been halted to a large extent. Since these macaw populations were on the brink of collapse, numerous macaw sanctuaries and breeding programmes have opened in recent years to work to enhance their population ranges.  Today, we can again see their coloured blue and red feathers fluttering amongst the green canopy of the forest.  

Marine conservation volunteers measuring baby sea turtlesFurther, changes in climactic conditions across the world over the past few decades in particular has resulted in new migration routes for many species, and certain species are starting to behave differently. For instance, birds are finding new migration routes, invertebrates are laying their eggs later in the season and the male to female ratio of turtle eggs is being skewed heavily in favour of females. Therefore, ecological research is taking place in an attempt to properly understand the changes that are taking place on intricate, species-specific levels - research into invertebrate meta-populations, dolphin behaviour and whale migration routes are just a few areas of research that biologists are currently investigating. 

But these scientists and groups cannot do it alone. The costs incurred of such projects require assistance: they rely on volunteers and interns to assist with their research, monitoring and conservation efforts.

Volunteer in Costa Rica with macaws on this conservation project

If you have been studying biology and are interested in volunteering on environmental research projects, then we highly recommend that you take action by positively contributing to these efforts. Volunteering abroad does normally cost, but rest assured your effort and support is much needed.  For many organisations today, volunteer assistance can be the only support they receive, and without volunteers many small organisations would not be able to continue as their funds would quickly run out.  Paying to volunteer is at times an oxymoron, but the reality is that someone in the host country needs to arrange for a volunteer to have a place to stay and to receive three meals a day.  Just as a food for thought, if you were to volunteer in London, few charities in the UK would be able to afford to house and feed volunteers.  The same applies to charities operating around the world.

Organisations in the past, especially those working in the domain of nature conservation, have traditionally relied on government support.  The problems we are facing today demands a new approach to fundraising and many charities and conservation groups are now getting direct support by the public through donations and volunteer schemes.  It has filled a gap where the government arm cannot fully reach, or is not able to reach at all. 

Volunteer abroad on coral reef conservation volunteer projectsSo where do you start looking for this opportunity?  Well, our volunteering database is one of the web’s most comprehensive volunteer databases, so finding a volunteering or internship opportunity that is right for you is incredibly simple. Our database features projects from organisations across the globe sorted into categories, making your search quick and easy.

We also have our own projects that run all year round, such as the Leatherback and Black Sea Turtle Volunteer Project, and have projects that run during set times of the year - the Pacific Sea Turtle Volunteer Project and the Dolphin Volunteer Research Project to name just two.

Regardless of your final choice we are here to support you through what will be the starting steps on your journey towards becoming a conservation volunteer abroad. We hope that our combined efforts will help shape the destiny of those species that are endangered today, and although a difficult task, we recognise that all journeys begin with a first step.