Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

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Environment & Wildlife

The Top 6 Projects to Kick Start a Career in Conservation

April 19th 2021

Tagged: Environment, Ethical Volunteering, Research, Volunteering Abroad

The Top 6 WorkingAbroad projects which cater to the career environmentalist, student scientist and/or academic research writer

Volunteering is for everyone. There is no doubt that offering our time, and the plethora of skills that we all possess is a boon for each and every project we attend. However, sometimes the drive to volunteer is less about altruism and more about diversifying our aptitude or honing specific skills. This may be with a view to seeking out the perfect job, changing career, writing a particular research paper that will shake the scientific community, and or even strengthening a niche for ourselves.

Let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with looking after our individual needs, especially when the ultimate goal is that of understanding and preserving the ecosystems, habitats, and wildlife that surrounds us on this incredible planet.

Initial investigations into which projects have the means and the motivation to support volunteers with a more detailed scientific program or a focus on making their time carry more academic weight can be fraught. WorkingAbroad is able to take some of that preliminary legwork off you and provide a select list of the projects that we know, through long-standing experience with education providers, employers, students and projects alike, are able to fulfil the needs of this group.

Utilising this list as a starting point is a great way to drill down into your soul, to find out which path you really want to take and to let the sound of your footsteps racing in that direction fill you with the sort of urgency and passion that volunteering and conservation thrive on. Creating space in our lives to care for ourselves and our environment is a crucial step to creating a life and planet that we can all enjoy to the fullest.


Veterinary and Conservation Experience, South Africa

Catching penguin in South Africa vet careerVolunteer in South Africa | Volunteer with Whales | Working Abroad

In the highly competitive worlds of university veterinary applications and of getting your first job following your studies, taking part in this volunteering experience as a pre or mid-studies student, or even as a newly-qualified vet will offer prospective institutions and employers highly tempting, additional food for thought. Not only does this opportunity offer you a skillset others will be missing but it draws a line between you and your colleagues in relation to your motivation, determination, and commitment to this work.

Receiving clinical support from world-renowned wildlife vet, Dr Johan Joubert and the highly experienced, award-winning Shamwari Game Reserve team may provide a critical turning point in your life, perhaps even changing your idea of your veterinary speciality through your time treating African wildlife. Whatever your journey post-Shamwari you are sure to look back on your time there with a mixture of fondness and awe at the person you were then, and how far you have emotionally and intellectually travelled since. It is likely to be one of those pivotal life experiences, so throw yourself in and immerse yourself in all that South Africa has to offer.

Kiwi Conservation Internship Positions in New Zealand

This internship opportunity provides much more than theConservation volunteer holding kiwi birdKiwi Conservation | New Zealand Volunteer | Working Abroad usual skills development and conservation training of a basic volunteering post. Alongside the daily tasks of small mammal, Kiwi and Kokako monitoring, track clearance and maintenance, and GPS trail mapping, this role takes on leadership of volunteer teams and the planning, preparation, training, and health and safety of a particular group of individuals. This extra responsibility will naturally be supported and you will receive group management training, all of which offers a really great additional skill-set for education and employment.

The level of conservation training you receive will be greater to enable you to share it most effectively with others and be well placed to answer the range of questions that might arise. All of this creates an amazing placement experience in itself but also ensures you have an incredibly broad range of pathways ahead of you on its completion. The stunning landscape of New Zealand is out there for you to explore and conserve, grabbing this opportunity will give you a rich and dynamic future.

Amazon Research and Conservation Internship Project, Peru

Family volunteering amazon rainforest peruAmazon Conservation | Volunteer Peru | Working Abroad

This research and conservation project, based in Las Piedras, Tampotata, is situated in one of the most bio-diverse areas of the Amazonian rainforest in Peru. The perfect place to fulfil a range of conservation and wildlife roles, including personal or academic research. With an abundant spectrum of caiman, primate, small mammal, butterfly and moth, and bird populations alongside the rich and varied tropical rainforest composition, there’s an almost infinite scope from which to create an interesting piece of research.

Each proposal will be rigorously assessed on its unique merit, to ensure that the individual and research topics are aligned with the Project itself, and guarantee that everyone’s energy is spent efficiently. You may need to complete this as a dissertation, a specific university research requirement, or even a personal interest project, but whatever the reason you will receive training and support from the most relevant research coordinator and at the end of your time there receive a certificate of completion, and potentially a letter of recommendation.

The duration of your project, whether it be one 1month or 6, will feel like a lifetime as you expand your knowledge and experience base far beyond its current boundaries. It will create more opportunities as you follow your own specific path through your personal and academic life and will be looked back on as a ‘defining time’ in so many positive ways.


Research Internships – Killer whales or Humpback whales

Intern Pietro taking photo of humpback whale in Cape TownDolphin Whale Volunteer | Volunteer Cape Town | Working Abroad

The breadth of training and skill development in the Humpback or Killer whale internships offer individuals incredible hands-on experience in research-specific marine conservation. Collating visual data samples, managing biopsy collection, behavioural acoustics monitoring, satellite transmitter attachment, and boat and shore-based tracking are all key aspects of the internship, for which you gain incredible training and learning.

Boat handling skills are also a big part of this role and an essential part of every marine conservationist’s toolkit. Living and working off the South African Cape will create one of the most memorable and formative experiences imaginable and as a volunteer intern, you are sure to gain back the energy you expend in spades.

Blue Lagoon Coral Reef Project, Mauritius – Long-Term Internship Positions

The internship positions on offer with this project are trulyUnderwater shot of hawksbill turtleCoral Reef Marine Conservation | Volunteer Mauritius | Working Abroad incredible and can allow you to create the sort of direction you really want to follow for the rest of your academic life and conservation career. The Blue Lagoon and Coral Reef Monitoring Programme is based around the Blue Bay and Pointe d’Esny regions of Mauritius. Sadly, this is also the recent site of a horrific commercial oil spill disaster, and so is in even greater need of diverse support.

Interns are able to focus on roles as Lagoon Monitoring Project Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, Coral Farming Intern, Turtle Monitoring Intern, or Human Activity Intern. All of these essential roles involve a high level of skill in understanding and managing the human impact on the reef environment, as well as running surveys, collating data, reef repairs, and plant and animal sample collection. You will receive training to be able to fulfil these specific duties and can even create the opportunity to get PADI certified if you wish.

The only absolute necessity to attend is that you possess strong, confident swimming skills in order to attend but given the depth of interest in cetacean populations, and marine life in general, that you require to want to work here it is usually the case that interns already swim like a fish!

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Volunteer Project, Hebrides – Teen Team Surveys

For those driven individuals who know from a young ageSilurian research boat in the hebridesHebrides Cetacean conservation | WorkingAbroad that their academic and personal direction is heading out to sea with the cetacean population, then this is an incredible project to get involved with, to get ahead of your peers, to develop your experience cache, and more importantly to set yourself up with a range of fundamental environmental monitoring skills.

This project offers younger marine conservationists (aged 16-17years) the chance to attend an active research programme with an appropriately high level of staff to ensure that the participants gain the skills, insights, and support they need to get the most out of their time.

It really is the research ship based equivalent of getting a (sea)leg-up in the marine conservation world and gives you the chance to show yourself (and those around you) the grit and determination needed to succeed in this physically/emotionally demanding and academically competitive sphere.  As a starting point for a lifelong love of marine mammals and the indigenous UK shoreline, this is the perfect project to set sail on.

Taking The Plunge to Kick Start your Career

We know that seeking an internship can seem daunting and more than a bit scary, after all your hard-earned savings, as well as your future self, is on the line, but at WorkingAbroad we work tirelessly to support the projects we know effectively, appropriately and selflessly conserve all sorts of different species and regions around the world. We work to ensure that our volunteers and interns gain the most out of their time on the different projects, matching their dreams and desires to their learning outcome and their academic achievements.

So, if you have an area of particular personal or academic interest that has not been covered here, or have any questions regarding our skilled internship opportunities, please contact victoria.mcneil@workingabroad.com or dave@workingabroad.com. An informal discussion will ensure you feel reassured that the plans you are making for your time away from home and/or for your long-term professional pathway are going to take you where you need.

We will help you create a legacy and longevity to the skills you will learn, which will be of benefit to both you and the planet in ways you can see now, and also in ways that will no doubt surprise you in the future. A life in conservation may be a tough calling but the places you will see and grow to love will only drive your passion further, making you thankful that you followed your instinct and chose this direction for your life.

Written by WorkingAbroad Blogger Rae  Hadley

About the Author

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Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.