Celebrating marine volunteers!

Celebrating marine volunteers!

The Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation recognises outstanding contributions to marine conservation. Our underwater wildlife is incredible, and so are the people who volunteer their time to make a difference. Take a look at the inspiring winners of the 2020 Marsh Volunteer Awards.

Meet the winners!

Man in a wetsuit smiling

Justin Hart

Justin Hart, Alderney Wildlife Trust
Justin joined the Alderney Wildlife Trust as a volunteer in 2017, primarily for terrestrial bird monitoring work-streams. He brought with him a wealth of experience in marine and seabird surveys.

Since then Justin has heavily contributed to the Alderney Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Programme and seabird monitoring works. Justin has enhanced our knowledge of the island’s grey seal population and has also begun increasing our records of subtidal marine species and habitats, which is extremely limited for Alderney.  Justin has identified several locally important marine habitats, pink sea fan stands, sea anemones and sea slugs not previously recorded within Alderney’s territorial waters.

Justin regularly runs boat trips, not only for marine-based surveys but also for the local community and visitors. He is always willing to drop everything and go that extra mile to help with marine conservation on Alderney. Our knowledge of the island’s marine species and habitats would, in part, be completely unknown without Justin!

woman sitting on rocks by the sea

Cheryl Yarham

Cheryl Yarham, Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Cheryl joined the Trust back in 2017 when she supported the Environmental Records Centre with their Cornish hedgerow mapping work, using ArcGIS to map traditional Cornish hedges throughout the county. Each week she took time out of her busy working life to come into the office and complete the work to a high standard and to the deadlines given to her. She was so fantastic that the marine team soon picked up on her skills and quickly stole her away to work on some marine data when the hedgerow project was complete! In 2018 she started on the Marine Strandings Network, collating and analysing data, and soon progressed to assisting with the engagement work such as training days and public events.

4 years on, Cheryl now coordinates the Seaquest Southwest project, processing the data, running the public sea watches, and training new Seaquest volunteers. The team simply could not deliver the project without her. Even with a full-time job outside of the Trust, she has never backed off from any challenges!

woman's face, glasses, smiling

Isobel Pring

Isobel Pring, Somerset Wildlife Trust
Isobel signed up as a lead volunteer for Somerset Wildlife Trust’s newly re-launched ShoreSearch programme in early 2019. She quickly became a valued member of the team and took on the role of recruiting, organising and supporting the other 40+ volunteers. 

Isobal helped make sure the relatively new volunteer group stayed in touch throughout the global pandemic helping with online zoom training and catch up meetings to ensure the more limited ShoreSearch surveys we managed to do during the lockdowns were covid secure and risk assessed. Isobel ensured that surveying equipment was sanitised between sampling and that socially distanced data collection and recording was safe and achievable.

With Isobel’s continuing support ShoreSearch has been one of the most successful parts of Somerset Wildlife Trusts recent coastal project work!

5 people doing a beach clean

Seal Group Volunteers, North Wales Wildlife Trust
For the past 5 years, this volunteer group has been a visible presence at a local seal haul out on the North Wales coast. The site is surrounded by a large human population and experiences large numbers of visitors. Due to this, the potential for disturbance from both the sea and land is considerable.

Beginning, initially to help stop a pup born in the area from being disturbed by beachgoers, the group has expanded as the seal numbers began to increase. Every day, in all weathers, throughout the pupping and moulting season, they have been documenting the seal numbers and behaviour, educating the public about the seals and documenting tagged and entangled seals. This is sometimes not an easy task, neither is watching while all aspects of wildlife is played out in front of them with many heart-in-mouth moments!

The work carried out by this group has resulted in a relatively stable breeding population, with a well-informed local community. The number of moulting seals has been steadily increasing and a noticeboard is now keeping visitors to the site informed and includes stories from tagged and otherwise marked seals.

Boy in red coat smiling

Josh Drake

Joshua Drake, Suffolk Wildlife Trust
Josh Drake (12) has shown exceptional dedication to regularly undertaking beach cleans and helping to spread positive messaging about looking after the marine environment. Josh decided to take his mum down to Trimley Marshes as part of their daily air and exercise routine during the lockdown. He noticed the ongoing issues of plastic rubbish on the foreshore. This triggered Josh to want to do as much as possible to help the local marine environment.

As well as continued effort via multiple extended visits to the marshes, Josh has shared important messages regarding the need to reduce ocean littering, along with the environmental impacts plastic in the estuarine and ocean environment causes.

One particular theme of this plastic waste in the environment has also been given priority focus by Josh, and that is the ongoing problem of plastic ‘nurdles’. He has collected literally thousands of these small ‘raw plastic’ spheres from Trimley Marshes foreshore along the strandline alone, carefully reporting all beach clean findings to the Marine Conservation Society. Josh has spent many hours checking soil sieved from Trimley foreshore and counting 1517 nurdles from his efforts! He has a jar of over a thousand pieces of microplastics, which he has kept to show the scale of the issue.

In September 2020 Josh did a special foreshore litter cleanup in dedication to a young eco-warrior and beach clean campaigner from Australia who tragically died before his 12th birthday.