Wildlife conservation is a rewarding but competitive sector and gaining work experience and thus developing your skills is really important. Developing your skills and knowledge when you first start your studies makes things more manageable but, if this is not possible, there’s no time like the present! A good source of general information is the agriculture and working with animals sector guide on our website. This will help with your initial research of the sector.
Explore the conservation sector within Bristol and see if there are any charities or organisations you’d be interested in volunteering with – you may find our employer directory useful when searching for local, regional and even national organisations. You can then contact them asking if there are any opportunities available but remember to check on their website first to see if there are any positions already advertised. It is also handy to sign up to any newsletters they may offer in order to keep up to date with potential opportunities and news regarding that organisation.
You may want to look for a regular volunteering role, enabling you to build a relationship with the organisation during your time at university. It’s invaluable to have someone you can ask when you have questions about the sector, and it’s a really good opportunity for networking and showing your enthusiasm. One-off or sporadic volunteering is also still really valuable, so if something sounds interesting, go for it!
In addition, there is a group called Bristol Nature Network who advertise volunteering opportunities and also events such as identification walks. Any type of volunteering or work experience is going to build your skill set and increase the chances of you getting where you want to go so make the most of the opportunities available. It might be worth noting down the volunteering you’re doing as you go, detailing what activities you did and what skills they gave you, so when it comes to writing your CV and filling in application forms, you’re ready!
You might want to attend some events e.g. lectures, work days held by the organisations you’re interested in. These will be attended by like-minded people and professionals within the sector, enabling you to form even more connections. They may also be helpful to you in deciding if you’re interested in a specific area within wildlife conservation, whether that be particular taxa or certain aspects of wildlife conservation e.g. public engagement or research.
The vast majority of conservation volunteering is unpaid so be prepared for this. However, a way of earning money whilst you are gaining experience is applying to the University of Bristol Internship Scheme. A number of organisations advertise posts on the vacancies section of mycareer or a student can approach an SME, including charities, social enterprises and NGOs, asking if they would like to participate in the scheme.
You can also approach lecturers regarding advice and possible work experience. They are a particularly useful resource regarding work experience over the summer, so if you’ve found their area of research interesting, get in touch! The Careers Service is another valuable source of help regarding locating work experience and internships. You may find the information discussed and presented at the Snapshot: Wildlife Conservation helpful.
So, what are your next steps?
Start looking for organisations you’d like to contact regarding possible volunteering or work experience. If you’re unsure, attend some events or workdays, perhaps chatting to people to get an idea of what is involved.
- Be prepared! Remember that long-term volunteering or work experience is often unpaid. However, don’t forget to check for positions via the University of Bristol Internship Scheme.
- Use the resources available to you! This may be from numerous avenues e.g. lecturers, the Careers Service.
- And finally, good luck!
Alice Lawrence, final year Zoology student