Your research could help shape the future of our planet. Volunteer placements are available in land and marine conservation, and your contribution will help inform policies to protect ecosystems.
- Projects (1)
Volunteer in wildlife research, South Africa
This project is a fantastic opportunity if you're a wildlife enthusiast keen to learn about the work that goes on behind the scenes of a Big 5 safari reserve. You'll work in a team to manage a reserve that is one of the success stories in large mammal reintroduction.
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Scientific research volunteering on your career break is fulfilling for so many reasons.
Firstly, you know that your research will help inform policies that help protect the planet for years to come. This could be a tiny ecosystem in some remote part of the world, or it could be large areas of land where conservation is essential in preserving endangered species.
Secondly, the experience you get in carrying out scientific research on a volunteering placement will help you in your chosen career. If you're looking to move into a scientific or research role and currently don't have any experience, volunteering on a scientific research project can give you the edge over other job-seekers. It doesn't have to be directly related either - you are learning so many valuable skills on a scientific research career break that these can be beneficial in a range of different careers.
Finally, you will be working directly with animals - observing their behaviour, carrying out counts, collecting data, etc that you will establish a bond with them and understand them better. You will also work with local people, possibly including some leading experts in their field.
Where can I volunteer in scientific research?
There are placements all over the world - mainly in the developing world where there is a greater need for monitoring and protecting species and their environments. You can volunteer on land or underwater as there are a number of marine conservation placements which rely on scientific research on coral reefs, fish, and marine mammals.
You can volunteer somewhere warm, like on a Big 5 game reserve in Africa, or somewhere extremely cold, like the Arctic or Antarctic! Warm placements are much more common - Arctic and Antarctic placements tend to be very expensive and tend to have more stringent requirements (experience and/or qualifications).
What will I be doing on a scientific research placement?
Almost all the scientific research volunteer placements available for career breakers are in conservation. There are a lot of different tasks that career breakers can do but some of the most common include:
- Identification training - learn how to spot the plants or animals your project is concerned with
- Monitoring animals - checking behaviour is normal, looking at where they are going and what they are doing, etc. How you monitor animals depends on your project - you could be diving underwater, going out on a jeep, or even riding on horseback! Some projects require you to camp out overnight to track the animals.
- Tagging and tracking - sometimes creatures are tagged in order to track them.
- Data recording - accurate data is crucial in scientific research, and you will be taught how to accurately record data so it can be used by others - not just in your project, but by scientists around the world!
- Carrying out surveys - to track and see patterns of behaviour etc. You may also be required to analyse your survey results.
- Analysis of the environment - this could be taking samples of soil, water or plants
- Laboratory work - learn how to analyse your samples in a lab and record your findings.
- Counting - carrying out counts of the species, eg fish on a coral reef or the animals in a reserve. This helps to find out which species are thriving, which are not, and helping to track migration or breeding patterns.
- Photography - visual data is an important part of any scientific research project. You may be required to learn underwater photography for a marine project, or even climb high into trees if you're tracking birds!
What will I learn on a scientific research volunteering placement?
The short answer is: tons! Unless you already have experience or qualifications (which most placements don't require), you will be trained in all the techniques outlined above. It's an immense learning opportunity - and you will be learning from experienced experts who work in the field. It's an experience you just can't get at home.
If you're doing a marine research project, you will have a PADI diving course included in your programme fee, which means you will learn to scuba dive. Some placements also offer an advanced diving course, to ensure you are more confident under the water.
What do I need to apply for a scientific research volunteering placement?
You don't usually need experience or qualifications as training is given at the beginning of your placement.
You obviously need a willingness to learn, and to be able to learn quickly as you will start carrying out your research very soon after you arrive!
A passion for protecting the environment is necessary, as is enthusiasm for the kind of work you will be doing.
If that's got you excited, see a list of all organisations offering scientific research volunteering opportunities here.