Wednesday 5 January 2022

Long-Term Volunteering on Skomer Island

Long-Term Volunteers

Back in December, we opened up applications for Long-Term Volunteering on Skomer Island for 2022. Our Long-Term Volunteers form an essential part of the Skomer Team, supporting with day-to-day running of the island, as well as a host of monitoring and maintenance activities. Put lightly – we couldn’t do what we do without them!

A glorious Skomer sunrise © Skomer Assistant Warden

We are looking for five motivated, passionate individuals, who are willing to listen and learn, to join the Team in 2022:

  • 2 x Long-Term Volunteers (Saturday 26th March – Saturday 9th July). 
  • x Long-Term Volunteers (Saturday 9th July – Saturday 1st October).
  • 1 x Seabird Monitoring Volunteer (Saturday 28th May – Saturday 25th June).

What to expect?

Wildlife Monitoring

Skomer Island is internationally important for seabirds, with just under 35,000 Atlantic puffins, 28,500 guillemots, 7,500 razorbills, and almost half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters – a staggering 350,000 breeding pairs! Skomer is also home to healthy population of Atlantic grey seals who pup on our beaches / coves every Autumn.

The Skomer Team are responsible for monitoring, and counting, these incredible species. June is of particular importance for this, with all of our seabird counts (with the exception of the Atlantic puffin) being carried out in this month. Seal monitoring takes place from August onwards, with our first pup usually being seen in the first week of the month.

Counting seabirds from our RIB © Sarah Kay Purdon

We also monitoring our breeding birds (everything from ravens to wrens!), carry out butterfly transects, and set moth traps.

Long-Term Volunteer (2021), Becca, on a Breeding Bird Survey © Skomer Assistant Warden

Checking moth traps © Skomer Assistant Warden

Needless to say, there is always wildlife monitoring going on, and Long-Term Volunteers get stuck in with every aspect of this! Additionally, there are nearly always opportunities to get involved with the work our researchers are carrying out – ranging from Manx shearwater chick weighing, to gull chick ringing.

Skomer VO, Beth, weighing one of the last Manxie chicks of the 2021 season © Skomer Assistant Warden

Public Engagement

The island welcomes up to 250 visitors a day, and provides accommodation for 16 overnight guests. Staff and Long-Term Volunteers work on a roster to delivery engaging welcome talks to guests – sharing their favourite parts of the island, as well as any exciting updates there may be (i.e. the first fulmar egg of the season at North Haven, pied wagtail fledglings at the Farm, or a lesser grey shrike hiding near the Chicken Sheds!).

Long-Term Volunteer (2021), Rowie, preparing to give a welcome talk © Skomer Assistant Warden

Skomer also hosts several events over the course of the year. These vary from Guided Walks, to overnight Family events (such as Shearwater Week). Long-Term Volunteers, alongside staff, assist in the running of these events.

Day Visitors arriving by boat for the first time since 2019! © Skomer VO

Forming a chain to removed luggage from the Dale Princess © Skomer Assistant Warden

Maintenance Skills

Living on an island means that if things break, the quickest way to fix it is often to fix it yourself! With the support of staff, Long-Term Volunteers assist with maintenance activities all around the island. In 2021 this included: fixing boardwalks, producing signage, repairing / rebuilding hides, painting, etc..

Long-Term Volunteers (2021), Becca and Samanta, working to repair Bull Hole Hide with our Warden, Leighton © Skomer Assistant Warden

Skomer Warden, Leighton, and Skomer VO, Beth, fixing the cleaning cupboard roof (whilst also answering phone calls!) © Skomer Assistant Warden

These are not necessarily tasks which Long-Term Volunteers are expected to have experience in beforehand – staff are around to provide support and guidance.

Long-Term Volunteers are also expected to assist in the cleaning and management of visitor accommodation and facilities.

Skomer VO, Beth, and Long-Term Volunteers (2021), Becca and Samanta, cleaning the Hostel at the start of the season © Skomer Assistant Warden

Personal Project

Whilst on Skomer, Long-Term Volunteers are given the opportunity to carry out a personal project, which aligns with their interests. Topics have varied over the years, but have included:

Home at sunset © Skomer VO
Individuals who successfully complete their project, and produce a report, will be eligible for the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer Bursary – worth £250.

Memories that will last a lifetime

We may well be biased, but Skomer is a pretty awesome place to spend 3 months. Alongside learning new skills and living on a National Nature Reserve, you’ll also get to meet, and work with, people from all walks of life.

Potluck at the Farm © Skomer Assistant Warden

Becca, one of our Long-Term Volunteers from 2021, put it perfectly in her leaving blog: “Some of my best memories from my time on Skomer have been with the people here, whether that be the movie nights we had in the library, the big potluck dinners we held at the farm or just the general fun and laughter whilst working together. I’ve enjoyed every second of working here and have them to thank for it!”

Our first group meal out of quarantine © Skomer Assistant Warden
Seabird Fieldworker, Freya, and Skomer Assistant Warden, Ceris, trying out the hammock! © Skomer VO

Previous Long-Term Volunteers

We wouldn’t want you to simply take our word for just how awesome an opportunity Long-Term Volunteering on Skomer is! We reached out to various previous Long-Term Volunteers as part of this Blog, and were absolutely delighted that several had the time to answer a couple of questions.

A huge thank you to them – for both giving their time as Long-Term Volunteers, and for still being willing to help out all these years later!

Sarah Purdon

Sarah Purdon (top of ladder) putting up House Martin boxes at the Farm © Sarah Purdon

When were you an LTV on Skomer? I was a Long-Term Volunteer on Skomer from April-August 2015 (I went out a bit early, and left late!).

What were your highlights? My highlights were the seabird counts in June, long tiring days out on the rib with the contrasts of beautifully calm seas, the cacophony of the birds on the cliffs, the serenity of being on a boat and having a laugh with the team, and the immense task of counting all of the birds before the month is out. I will also never forget the boat trips out to Grassholm and the Celtic Deep, and the “all hands on deck” days like the big island clean up, where everyone did what they could leaving you exhausted and so fulfilled at the end of the day.

What are you up to now? After (reluctantly) leaving Skomer in 2015 I visited several times in 2016, and then returned for the full seasons 2017-2019 as Assistant Warden. I’m still working for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales now, but now as the Mid Wales Red Squirrel Officer, so not a huge amount of seabird work, but surprisingly relevant experiences!

Hannah Andrews

© Hannah Andrews

When were you an LTV on Skomer? April-July 2016, so I was around for the seabird season! It was the summer before I started uni, so I’d never lived away from home before, but everyone made it so easy. I loved it and it was a huge confidence booster when I went away to university in the autumn.

What were your highlights? Just being able to call Skomer home for a few months was a highlight in itself, but if I had to choose - catching and helping to ring Short-Eared Owl chicks, watching Common Dolphins swim underneath our little rib on one of the first boat counts of the season, and the ‘hostel takeover’ dinner that all the staff and researchers had one weekend, when the weather was too rough for the hostel guests to make it over! I remember the sunset being pretty incredible that night too.

What are you up to now? Right now I’m working at a prehistoric museum and cave site called Creswell Crags, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border. My degrees are in Archaeology, so it’s a really cool heritage site to be working at! I’m part of the Education team, which involves a lot of teaching and leading various tours and activities. Being a Skomer LTV was instrumental in getting me here - I would never have had the confidence to stand up and lead talks, events and school trips if I hadn’t had to do so many do morning welcome talks on the island! 

Thomas Faulkner and Dulcie Fairweather

A Pigstone Bay sunset during our volunteer week in June © Thom Faulkner 

When were you an LTV on Skomer? Thomas: April -July 2017. Dulcie: April -July 2018

What were your highlights? Thomas: The warm nights with shearwaters and storm petrel calling at north haven. The real gems were glow worms on the farm track between the farm and wardens house (counted 12 one night) and the bioluminescence in the sea at north haven while paddle boarding at night. I remember a guillemot leaving blue glowing “footprints” in the sea as it ran across the waters surface to take off, and my paddle board sparking blue when sweeping my hand across it once I made it back to the beach.

Dulcie: There were so many highlights of my time on Skomer, it’s difficult to choose. I absolutely loved watching the sun rise and fall every day. I’d often be eating dinner after a long day, look out the window and see the vivid colours of a sunset start to spread over the sea… I’d just drop my fork and run out to Garland Stone (my favourite spot) to sit and watch. Another stand out highlight was seeing a snowy owl on the island - an unusual and beautiful visitor! The crows weren’t too happy about it’s presence and it only stayed for and day, which made it even more special to have seen it.

What are you up to now? We have just bought a house together near Machynlleth. Dulcie works as a woodlands and volunteer officer at the Centre for Alternative Technology and I (Thomas) am an Assistant Ecologist with an Aberystwyth consultancy firm. We still visit and help out on Skomer every year without a miss (except 2020, of course!).

Harriet Sleight

Harriet collecting soil samples near the Farm © Harriet Sleight

When were you an LTV on Skomer? July-September 2018.

What were your highlights? My main highlights were all of the cool people who I met!

I also really enjoyed the opportunity to conduct my own research project on the island, I researched the impacts of burrowing seabirds on island soil nutrient cycling.  I found that the soil nutrient concentrations on the island were almost 10 times greater than those on the Deer Park on the mainland due to marine derived nutrients being incorporated into the island soils by the seabird colonies.  These raised nutrient concentrations affected island vegetation and particularly the growth patterns of rare plants. 

Another highlight will always be being involved with monitoring the seal populations!

What are you up to now? I’m now living in York and doing a PhD researching the sources and impacts of pharmaceuticals on the environment.

Please note that the deadline for applications is 11.59pm on Sunday, 23rd January 2022. For any queries regarding Long-Term Volunteering, or for an informal chat, please feel free to contact Skomer Visitor Officer, Beth Thompson, at

A good luck seal! © Skomer VO

We look forward to receiving your application. Pob lwc!

Beth, Skomer VO.