Conservation Volunteering Opportunities

There is a huge number of organisations now running conservation projects in a variety of countries around the world. If you are considering getting involved with volunteering, research or expeditioning, then a few of these would be a good place to start. As with anything they vary in the ratio of adventure to science, the quality and impact of research, duration, location and of course cost! I'm sure there is something for everyone here, but if you know of a worthwhile organisation I've missed, then let me know.

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Conservation Projects and Expedition Providers

Earthwatch*

Founded in 1971, Earthwatch is an international environmental charity which engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Number one in my book for real science, their free talks at the RGS are well worth a visit.

CREES – Manu*

Crees offers the opportunity for volunteers to be involved in research in a beautiful part of the Peruvian Amazon. Crees aim to empower local Communities to lead sustainable and authentic lives. Working with CREES means total immersion in the rainforest and they seek to positively transform the way you think about the world.

British Exploring (formerly the British Schools Exploring Society)*

This website certainly wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this Society, which traces it’s origins back to the Terra Nova Expedition and Captain Scott’s ill-fated return from the South Pole. In essence, their purpose is youth development through challenging scientific expeditions to remote environments.

Global Vision International

Running over 100 projects in 25 countries GVI has achieved a great deal, not just in conservation, but in education and community development too. In many ways they are an umbrella organisation, encompassing a much wider variety of projects and expeditions under one roof. In my opinion, their work in Costa Rica and Indonesia is among the most worthwhile.

Coral Cay Conservation

For the marine biologists out there, CCC has an outstanding reputation for undertaking marine fieldwork, scientific research and raising awareness in a variety of tropical locations. There is also a strong focus on working with local communities to address conservation issues. There’s a surprising number of marine biologists out there who started with CCC.

Operation Wallacea

A focus on high quality research led by a network of academics resulting in peer reviewed publications. OpWall offer particularly good opportunities for undergraduates and masters students looking to undertake field projects abroad.

Scientific Exploration Society

Running truly unique expeditions to incredibly varied and remote places, the SES offer a rare glimpse of exploration as it used to be. Led by the legendary Colonel John Blashford-Snell. People with medical, dental and construction skills are often particularly useful.

Biosphere Expeditions

An international non-profit wildlife conservation organisation. They’ve got some very worthwhile projects and have a good approach. They are also a member of the IUCN and the UN’s Environment Programme.

ZSL Fieldcourses

The Zoological Society of London also run excellent field courses and accept applications for their Erasmus Darwin Barlow Expeditions. This is not so much a volunteer position, but nevertheless a great opportunity.

Tropical Biology Association

A fantastic organisation that runs highly regarded field courses in Africa and Asia. Full scholarships are granted to successful applicants from many developing countries, and others are heavily discounted.

UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve

A project I have first hand experience of, and part of Action for the Wild. They conduct research and species conservation on their reserve in South Africa.

(* These ones are my favourites)

Conservation Grants:

If you found this page whilst looking for expedition funding and sponsorship opportunities, then you might find my conservation grants page useful.

Conservation Events:

Not sure about taking the plunge? What to meet a few people or organisations first? Here are a few Events worth attending…
Explore @ the RGS
Birdfair

The Conservation Guide:

It can be really hard to compare different volunteering opportunities, especially if you’ve never done one before. I recommend reading reviews on The Conservation Guide, set up by my friend Justin Lennon.

Smaller, Unique Conservation Volunteering Opportunities

Batumi Raptor Count

Something I’ve always wanted to get involved with, but never had the time. These guys could thousands of birds of prey as they migrate across Georgia in the Caucasus.

Blue Temple Conservation

A small independent dive based coral reef conservation project, based on an island an hour from mainland Malaysia.

Azafady Conservation Programme

A really worthwhile Madagascar based sustainable development and conservation organization, working closely with local people. There are several other organisations in the Lemur Conservation Network.

Shamwari Wildlife Reserve

There are numerous ‘wildlife experiences’ that do little for conservation. I’ve seem Shamwari recommended as being much better quality and more worthwhile than most.

Orangutan Foundation

Established in 2000 in Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan, working towards rehabilitation of captive primates.

Durrell

Durrell occasionally have projects that need volunteers such as this project in the Caribbean.

Cheetah Conservation Fund

Opportunities to volunteer and contribute to worthwhile research on Cheetah conservation in Northern Namibia, a stronghold of the species.

WildlifeACT

A range of conservation volunteering opportunities in Southern Africa. I don’t have first hand experience of these guys, but they have won an award for responsible tourism.

Zambian Primate Project

Best researched and arranged though Born Free. An opportunity to work with Vervet Monkeys and Yellow Baboons in Kafue National Park.

Lilongwe Wildlife Centre

A conservation and education center in Malawi, with over 20,000 students taking park in the centers programmes every year.

Elephant Human Relations

A project based in Namibia developing practical and realistic solutions to human-elephant conflict.

Barefoot Conservation

A small marine based conservation initiative based in a wonderfully remote part of Indonesia.

Bimini Shark Lab

Shark and ray research in the Bahamas.

SEED Madagascar

Environmental projects working to protect threatened areas and species in the Anosy region of southeast Madagascar.

Africat Foundation

I’ve seen firsthand the great work that Africat do, it’s worth contacting them to enquire about volunteer opportunities.

Black Vulture Conservation

A very worthwhile project away from the more glamorous species, based in Mallorca.

Perry Institute

Marine research internships at their research and diving facility on Lee Stocking Island in the Bahamas.

Advice For Aspiring Conservationists

If you’re considering conservation volunteering or a fieldwork expedition, then I can’t encourage you enough. It can however, be difficult to decide where to start. There’s a huge number of organisations, and so I would urge you to do your research and to find out where your hard earned money and time will be best placed. I’ve written a few articles that might help…

UK Based Opportunities For Aspiring Conservationists

You don’t have to travel far to get involved with conservation volunteering opportunities. There’s lots of ways to get experience in the UK, and even help international organisations from home.

The Conservation Volunteers

The Conservation Volunteers help hundreds of thousands of people each year to reclaim local green places.

Trees for the Future

A hugely worthwhile organisation working mainly out of Africa. Whilst they don’t have field based opporunities, they do welcome help from volunteers – particularly linguists.

Trees for Life

I’ve worked with TfL myself up in the Scottish Highlands. I look forward to going back in 50 years and seeing the fruits of all their hard work.

Trees for Cities

Trees for Cities is an independent charity, which inspires people to plant and love trees in cities worldwide.

Other Ways To Get Conservation Fieldwork Experience

Plan, research and undertake your own expedition – This might seem daunting, but plenty of people manage it. Have a look at some of the many examples over on Discover Conservation of ordinary people doing exactly this.

Choose a university degree that involves practical fieldwork. I’m currently based at Queen Mary University of London, and undergraduates have the opportunity to visit Southern Africa, Borneo and Scotland.

Develop a Masters of PhD project that incorporates the sort of fieldwork you are interested in. My own PhD ha involved fieldwork in Scotland and Lapland. I have friends working in all sorts of exotic places, and for most it is fully funded by their research grant.

Charities and Societies To Join

Even if you’re not about to head off on an expedition, there’s quite a variety of worthwhile organisations to join in the UK. From keeping up with news, attending talks or volunteering at events, here’s a selection worth looking at.

The Royal Geographical Society (A good place to start)

Birdlife International

British Ecological Society

The RSPB

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

The Conservation Volunteers

The National Trust

Marine Conservation Society

The Zoological Society of London

The Rest Worth Mentioning

Generally I would suggest directly approaching those running the projects if possible, but in some cases larger orgs might offer what you’re after.

Raleigh International

Frontier

Greenforce

Blue Ventures

Global Nomadic

EcoLife

Projects-Abroad

Marine Conservation Expeditions

GoEco

Lindblad Expeditions

Tamandua Expeditions

Have I forgotten any?

Drop me a message, and let me know.

Other Useful Resources…

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