The Marsh Volunteer Award

Established in 2014, this award is presented in recognition of outstanding and demonstrable contributions to marine conservation by a Wildlife Trust volunteer

Brian Marsh from the Marsh Christian Foundation, said: "We set up the Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts because we are concerned about the conservation of marine wildlife.  

"Our other awards for marine conservation recognise both international and academic ahchievements, so we wanted to highlight the important work marine volunteers are undertaking in the UK.  Hopefully this award will help recognise the outstanding efforts of these volunteers in their protection of Living Seas, and raise the profile of their essential work."

The Marsh Christian Trust was established in 1981 and has two main areas of work; grant-making and the Marsh Awards. The awards seek to recognise unsung heroes who all aim to improve the world we live in through volunteering or academic excellence. Recipients of Marsh Awards range from scientists working in conservation biology and ecology, to authors and sculptors from the arts world, and those who give their time unselfishly to work with the young, the elderly, people with mental health issues and for our heritage.  Founded in 1981, it now runs more than 70 awards with a number of partner organisations and supports a growing number of smaller charities through its grant-making programme.

Fred Booth (2017)

2017's winner was Fred Booth. A volunteer for Kent Wildlife Trust, Fred has been heavily involved in marine conservation in the county since the 1980s. He has not only personally surveyed habitats and activities along almost every kilometre of Kent’s coastline, but also inspired a loyal group of volunteers to record the marine life found along the county's shores. His work was instrumental in establishing Kent Wildlife Trust’s marine programs, where the national ‘Shoresearch’ initiative was born. 

Bryony Chapman, Marine Officer for Kent WT, who nominated Fred said,

"He was an inspiring mentor supporting Kent WT’s new marine staff, continuing well into his 80s to survey, engage and train numerous new volunteers with his intimate knowledge of the Kent coast and its wildlife. The data he collected, and inspired others to collect, was critical in identifying the location of most of Kent’s MCZs."

This year, runners-up prizes were also awarded to Dr Melanie Broadhurst of Alderney Wildlife Trust for her marine conservation work, and Pauline Gillings of Norfolk Wildlife Trust who runs regular beach cleans at Cley Marshes.

Nigel Phillips (2016)

2016's winner was Nigel Phillips, Coastal Ambassador for Somerset Wildlife Trust. Despite having had no formal training, Nigel trained himself in coastal ecology and species identification and has developed an intimate knowledge of the coast, having spent hundreds of hours walking and surveying it. He is now widely regarded as the leading authority in the county for all things coastal. In 2010, Nigel recognised the importance and diversity of our coastal and marine environment, realised it was an under-appreciated asset and volunteered his services to the Trust to champion it.

Jolyon Chesworth, SWT’s Health & Wellbeing Manager, who nominated said:“Nigel’s skill is in communicating his knowledge and passion, and he does this with enormous energy and enthusiasm. In 2013, in recognition of his work and value, Nigel was made Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Coastal Ambassador and has since organised a full and varied programme of coastal and marine events, and brought together a dedicated intertidal survey volunteer group, both of which have tangibly raised the profile of our Living Seas. It is difficult to overstate his contribution and impact”.

Betty Green (2015)

2015's winner was Betty Green. Betty is a longstanding member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust and a passionate volunteer pursuing an interest in marine conservation and diving with vigour over the years. In 1996, Betty and her husband Gill provided information and photos on Cumbrian marine sites for the JNCC publication 'Coasts and Seas of the United Kingdom, Region 13 Irish Sea' which mapped the coastal environment to help fill some of the data gaps needed for policy development and environmental managment.

As a member of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, whose knowledge and expertise was clearly focused on aspects such as botany and land-based conservation, Betty took it upon herself to expand the Trust's knowledge and be the advocate for the marine environment.  

Emily Baxter, Living Seas Officer for the North West Wildlife Trusts said, "Betty's passion, drive and enthusiasm played a pivotal role in  driving Cumbria Wildlife Trust to the stage that it is at with its marine work today. Eight years ago, Cumbria Wildlife Trust had no funded marine projects. 

Today there are two members of staff and up to six trainees raising awareness and taking action for marine conservation throughout Cumbria, the North West and across the Irish Sea.

Betty is inspirational to others, extremly knowledgeable and hugely enthusiastic about the Cumbrian Coast, which cannot help but rub off on people that she meets. It is certainly helpful and encouraging to have someone like Betty on our side!"

Paul Naylor (2014)

Devon-based photographer and author Paul Naylor (pictured right).

Paul, who lives at Wembury near Plymouth, was nominated by four Wildlife Trusts - Devon, Cornwall, Kent, and Lincolnshire - and received it on Monday 1 December 2014 at Plymouth’s Mount Batten Centre,right) was the first recipient of the Marsh Award for Marine Conservation, honouring his contribution in capturing the beauty of the UK’s marine wildlife, and educating countless people in the value of the nation’s undersea environments.

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas for The Wildlife Trusts, said: "Paul's stunning photographs of British marine life are vital for our work. They allow us to showcase our marine environment, bringing to life species and habitats which many people don’t get to experience, and demonstrate how important the protection of our seas is.”

Paul Naylor is widely recognised as one of the UK’s top underwater wildlife photographers.  Over the years, he has built up a wonderful collection of images of British marine species and habitats, bringing the beauty of underwater world to new and wider audiences.  You can see some of them in the gallery, below.  His books, which include a guide to Great British Marine Animals  provide a fascinating insight into the life, behaviours and struggles of the species he photographs.

On receiving his award Paul said:  “I am delighted to win the award because I’m very passionate about spreading the word for our amazing marine life and supporting the Wildlife Trusts with my underwater photography.  I also feel humbled at being chosen, knowing what wonderful work all the other volunteers do."  

Read Paul's guest blog on our Living Seas' pages here.

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