Rachel Buckley Education Volunteer 8th July-1st November 2015, England

I recently completed a master’s degree in Wild Animal Biology and having previously enjoyed working with children as a teaching assistant I was keen pursue a career in environmental education. I joined the CBMWC in July as an Education and Awareness Volunteer hoping to gain essential practical experience and it was a very good decision, becoming a valuable and enjoyable few months.

Having moved from London to New Quay there was a definite change in lifestyle but when walking to the office on a beautiful morning looking out across Cardigan Bay, I quickly began to love this small town. It was extremely easy to settle in, with everyone at the centre being very welcoming and friendly so I soon felt as if I had always been a part of the team. It was great to work in an environment in which the volunteer’s work was greatly appreciated, as stated in every team meeting, creating a positive and enthusiastic atmosphere (often helped by Radio Ceredigion being played in the office!).

I worked closely with the Living Seas Awareness Officer, Natalie, developing and running a range of educational activities including “Seashore Safari” rock pool sessions and “Dolphin Detective” sessions. Every day was varied and I was lucky to gain valuable experience leading activities over the summer holidays and developing my marine wildlife knowledge. I also ran an education stall, interacting with the public and raising awareness of the centre’s work and the local wildlife. It is hard to pick only one memorable moment but there was one day when I spoke to a young boy, under 5 years old with his parents on the education stall, showing him some marine mammal skulls and crab shells, which he seemed really intrigued by. Later that day they approached me again because the boy wanted to show me a similar crab shell he found on the beach and gave it to me to keep. To see his enthusiasm for wildlife at such a young age was really rewarding and definitely made my day!

After the summer holidays,  I started to get involved with the other work at the centre, carrying out land and boat surveys, inputting and checking data and helping to run the visitor centre. This was great for getting marine research and monitoring experience, adding more skills to my CV! When watching dolphins leaping from the harbour wall, spotting harbour porpoises or watching seal pups from a boat, it was a privilege to be able to call it work.

I would definitely recommend this opportunity to anyone wanting to gain practical experience in environmental education and working for a marine wildlife charity. I am grateful to Natalie, Laura, Sarah, Steve and all the volunteers there this year that have helped create a very memorable experience for me, which has been significant in developing many skills relevant for a career in the conservation sector. I will miss New Quay (and the local pub quiz!) and being reluctant to leave I have already planned to come back for the Christmas meal