Celebrating our incredible volunteers

The Marsh Christian Trust marine volunteer awards celebrate the achievement of Wildlife Trust volunteers across the UK. Today we celebrate the winners from 2020, and the amazing contributions they have made to our underwater wildlife.

The Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation has been awarded since 2014, and 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. 

Winner - Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Ronald Surgenor, Ulster Wildlife volunteer

Ronald Surgenor, Ulster Wildlife

Ronald Surgenor has been a dedicated volunteer sea-angler for the Sea Deep project at Ulster Wildlife since the launch of the project in 2018. After completing the shark and skate tagging training, he has continuously endeavoured to tag sharks and skates year-round and expand the project survey area by fishing in new locations.

Ronald is passionate about the conservation of our local endangered sharks and skates, as such he has gone the extra (nautical) mile by achieving the first Common Skate Wildlife Order license for the project. So far, he has successfully tagged 22 skates making up more than 75% of the Sea Deep skate records to date.

As a role model in the angling community, he encourages other anglers to handle sharks and skates according to best practice techniques. He has successfully recruited anglers to join the tagging programme, increasing angling effort and the number of sharks tagged, as well as increasing good angling practice throughout the community.

Additionally, Ronald has attended workshops with government and academia to share his experiences and knowledge with others and encourage further protections for endangered species around our coasts.

Winner - Marsh Young Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Laura Thornton, winner of the Young Marsh Award

Laura Thornton, Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Laura joined Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Beach Rangers Academy and is an absolute delight! She is passionate about sharing her love for the sea and everything in it. She is a full-time student but still proactively seeks out and embraces every available opportunity to get involved with marine initiatives. 

Along with her work on the project, Laura participates in the Our Bright Future Youth Forum and attended Parliament, speaking with MPs about the importance of involving young people in decision-making. She has spent the summer running small, socially-distanced events at Polzeath beach - from rock pooling to marine art classes, she's talked to hundreds of people about the wonders of, and threats to, the Cornish and UK coastline. 

Runner up - Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Emma Dawber, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust volunteer

Emma Dawber, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust

Emma is an invaluable member and asset to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Living Seas education work programme, and since 2016 she has dedicated over 1,000 hours to volunteering!

Through dedicating her time, Emma has engaged thousands of school children in the wonder of the seashore, and been an advocate for Yorkshire's marine life at many events, helping to demonstrate how local people can make changes to support the protection of ur seas.

Emma was so inspired by volunteering with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust that she decided to study Environmental Sciences with the Open University, so that she could better her knowledge and understanding of the environment. 

Runner up - Marsh Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Mandy Fall, Northumberland Wildlife Trust volunteer

Mandy Fall, Northumberland Wildlife Trust

Mandy lives right on the coast and one of her greatest passions is cetaceans. Not only has she taken part in events to sight cetaceans, she also carries out surveys in her own free time and reports this data back to Marine Life's North East Cetacean Project.

Over lockdown she has been working hard to remove waste from her local beauty spot and has lifted over 400kgs from the coastline through her site warden role. In addition to her amazing volunteering work, Mandy has completed her Diploma in Marine Biology and hopes to gain a career in marine conservation. 

Runner up - Marsh Young Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Ashleigh Carter, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust volunteer

Ashleigh Carter, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

For over two years Ashleigh has volunteered with a range of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust marine projects, including acting as a key member of the warden team for the little terns nesting at Seaton Carew - chatting to beach users and dog walkers about the birds, and helping them to use a telescope and binoculars. 

In 2019 she also conducted her own cetacean surveys during National Whale and Dolphin Week, identifying that there was a gap in information for the Teesside stretch, and setting up a Facebook page to encourage local people to share their own sightings and information. Information from these sightings now feeds into the North Sea Wildlife Trusts' cetacean recording programme. 

Ashleigh has unfailing enthusiasm for the marine environment!

Runner up - Marsh Young Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

Natalie Harris, Young Marsh Award Runner Up

Natalie Harris, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust

Natalie joined Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust as a volunteer on their 'Secrets of the Solent' project as she wanted to learn more about how to protect our seas, and then spread that knowledge and passion. Natalie also carries out her own beach cleaning campaign, called "Clean our Seas", with a big Instagram following of 15,000, engaging them in the importance of protecting the environment.

Her volunteering with the Trust has helped her to make the decision to change careers, and she is now going to University to study ecology and wildlife conservation. Good luck, Natalie!