Every year, thousands of RSPB volunteers contribute almost a million hours to help conservation. Whether that’s fundraising, talking to reserve visitors or taking part in a citizen science project, we really couldn’t achieve what we do without their help. This is certainly the case for the RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science (CfCS); our team of dedicated volunteers help us innovate technologies, monitor sites and research species. This National Volunteers Week, we want to say a huge thank you to the people who dedicate their time, passion and expertise allowing us to help protect nature.

Beached Bird Survey

Every year since 1971, a faithful flock of volunteers have walked hundreds of kilometres of the UK’s coastline to help monitor oil pollution and its impact on seabird mortality. The Beached Bird Survey, one of the UK’s longest running Citizen Science projects, is indebted to these wonderful volunteers who have braved our blustery beaches, come rain or shine.

  

Lynn Bolger, Barbara Knowles and Phil Knowles near Selker Point

Amanda Proud and Martin Ketcher have done the comprehensive whinchat nest monitoring and ringing work at Geltsdale for many years and helped massively in our tracking work. Each year they move from Hertfordshire to a RSPB house at Geltsdale for a couple of months. And although they keep saying it will be the last year, they keep returning!

  

Amanda and Martin testing soil moisture as part of a Natural England pilot study for a Fire Danger Rating System

Puffineers

Our team of intrepid puffin volunteers have been working on Project Puffin, or Puffarazzi as it’s affectionately known as. A team of computer scientists, biologists, ecologists and science communicators, their work includes identifying and measuring the fish in Puffarazzi photos, working on the science of studying puffin diet, sourcing photos from online galleries and communicating their findings.

Although the Citizen Science project element finished in 2022, the team have been busy identifying all the photos that came in. We are hoping that the projects results will lead to better protection of puffins and seabird colonies.

  

Some of the puffineers

The tech whizzes

The CfCS volunteer ‘technical army’ has developed a number of exciting new conservation toys over the last 12 months. Keith Fuller and Tom Southworth are an integral part of the design team in the Science department working on a number of new innovative projects including building moving cuckoos and wildlife detection systems using cameras and sensors.

  

Animatronic cuckoo built by Keith Fuller to help lure cuckoos on Coll, Scotland

Dedicating two days volunteering to the RSPB each week, for the majority of twenty two years, Colin Gooch has been involved in a vast array of projects, multiple reserve installations, and providing kit and scientific equipment to our field staff.

With a background in Physics, his scientific knowledge has been a huge benefit to the department. Whether installing a birdfeeder camera at Titchwell or helping install a puffin sound system on Ramsey Island, Colin continues to be a great asset.

  

Colin in the field

Helen Robertson has been a volunteer Research Assistant in the CfCS team for nearly ten years now, volunteering a couple of days a week. Helen was originally recruited to help input and organise a dataset on invertebrates related to research on Chough. With her expertise in organising spreadsheets and inputting and manipulating data, over the years she has turned her hand to GIS data and extracting video data.

Helen has since helped sort data on many CfCS projects, for example on UK weather, bird atlas, bumblebees, stone curlew colour rings, woodland birds and Gough island seabirds and is now about to tackle some Gola forest species data.  Helen’s work has been invaluable to the CfCS and has allowed quicker analysis of many datasets important for the conservation of priority species and habitats.

  

As with many of our volunteers, Professor Rhys Green has continued to work with us after a long career with RSPB. A highly cited and influential conservation scientists, Rhys continues input to conservation science through important research on the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper, including population estimates and migration patterns, the re-introduction of corncrakes in Cambridegshire and the wild populations in the Highlands and Hebrides, and through work on the continued prevalence of lead shot and use of lead ammunition. He also finds time on vulture conservation in Asia as chair of Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction.

  

Volunteer Monitoring of Farm Wildlife work

The Volunteer Monitoring of Farm Wildlife work aims to develop a cost-effective volunteer-led programme to carry out multi taxa biodiversity surveys to support long-term monitoring and conservation efforts on farmland across England. We would like to celebrate Volunteers Week by thanking our volunteers Elizabeth Hickman, Lynne Roberts, Bridget Gaskill, and Beki Hill for their hard work supporting the social science research elements of the project.

Bridget supported us by writing up notes and transcriptions of focus group discussions to better understand how to engage young people in the programme. Beki and Lynne conducted interviews with participating farmers to document their experiences and feedback of being involved in the programme, whilst Elizabeth spent time helping us format the farmer interviews ready for analysis and organising images for the project.

Lynne Roberts (left) and Elizabeth Hickman (right)

All our volunteer efforts have helped to inform social science research which will be used to improve the design of the project, recruitment of our volunteers toward a younger demographic, volunteer, and farmer experiences.

Monitoring schemes

We would like to say a massive thank you to the nearly 1000 volunteers, study groups, county bird clubs, farmers and other organisations who helped with the National Turtle Dove Survey; without which undertaking such surveys would not been possible.

We also don’t want to forget the thousands of highly skilled volunteers who contribute to bird monitoring and research across the UK, from bird counting to bird ringing and species protection, in vital schemes such as the BBS, WeBS, BirdTrack and more.

If these stories leave you feeling inspired, visit our surveys page to find a citizen science project or volunteering opportunity.to suit you. 

Anonymous