On the 7th of December, applications for long-term volunteering on Skomer during 2023 went live. Our long-term volunteers form an integral part of the island team. Assisting with day-to-day running of the island, and supporting the wardens, visitor officer, and field worker with visitor engagement and wildlife monitoring. Simply put – we could not run without them!
|Sunset at Garland Stone © Skomer VO|
- 2 x Long-term volunteers (Saturday 25th March – Saturday 8th July).
- 2 x Long-term volunteers (Saturday 8th July – Saturday 30th September).
- 1 x Seabird monitoring volunteer (Tuesday 16th May – Saturday 24th June).
What can I expect?
Skomer welcomes up to 250 visitors a day, and provides accommodation for 16 overnight guests. Staff and long-term volunteers work on a rota to deliver engaging welcome talks to visitors – sharing their favourite parts of the island, as well as any exciting updates (i.e. the first seal pup of the year hidden amongst boulders in South Haven, swallow chicks ready to fledge in the indoor picnic shelters, or a woodchat shrike calling at Moorey Mere!).
|Long-term volunteer Rowie (2021) prepares to give a welcome talk in North Haven © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Long-term volunteer Eve (2022) runs afternoon boats © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Additionally, we host several overnight events over the course of the year. Long-term volunteers, alongside staff, help to run these events. These include our family friendly Shearwater Week, and Young Birders’ Week.
|Long-term volunteers Lira and Anna (2022) identify moths with Bee and Ed, as part of Young Birders' Week © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Seasonal wildlife monitoring
Skomer is internationally important for seabirds, with just under 39,000 Atlantic puffins, 31,790 guillemots, 10,192 razorbills, and almost half the world’s population of Manx shearwaters – a staggering 350,000 breeding pairs. The island is also home to an abundance of other wildlife, including breeding chough, curlew, and peregrine, Atlantic grey seals, and its own endemic sub-species of bank vole.
|A pair of razorbills © Skomer VO|
|Seal pup in Pigstone Bay © Skomer VO|
The team are responsible for monitoring, and counting, these incredible species. The latter part of May into June is a particularly important time, with our seabird counts taking place during this period. Long-term volunteers are joined by a seabird monitoring volunteer to complete our annual census of cliff nesting seabirds and Manx shearwaters. Seal monitoring takes place from August onwards, with our first pup usually being seen in the first week on the month.
|A quick break mid-Manx shearwater census (L-R: Eve, long-term volunteer 2022; Kirsty, guillemot fieldworker 2022; Becci, seabird monitoring volunteer 2022; Kelda, long-term volunteer 2022) © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Counting cliff nesting birds from our boat (L-R: Becca, long-term volunteer 2021; Ceris, Skomer assistant warden; Izzy, seabird monitoring volunteer 2021) © Sarah Purdon|
We also monitoring our breeding birds, carry out butterfly transects, and set moth traps.
|Long-term volunteer Lira (2022) carries out a butterfly transect © Skomer Assistant Warden|
There is always wildlife monitoring going on, and long-term volunteers get stuck in with every aspect! 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.
|Long-term volunteer Anna (2022) helps with gull chick ringing © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Long-term volunteer Becca (2021) assists with Manxie chick weighing © Becca Wanless / LTV 2021|
Living away from the mainland means that when things break there isn’t always a ‘professional’ around to fix it…the quickest way is often to do it yourself! With the support of staff, long-term volunteers assist with maintenance tasks. In 2022 this included: fixing benches, building boardwalks, repairing burrows, painting, carpentry, widening paths, etc.
|Long-term volunteers Lira and Anna (2022) prepare to fix a bench in North Haven © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Long-term volunteers Samanta and Becca (2021) help Leighton make a new door for one of our research hides © Skomer Assistant Warden|
Training (and PPE) is provided in the use of relevant tools and equipment. Long-term volunteers are also expected to assist in the cleaning and management of visitor accommodation and facilities when required.
Long-term volunteers are encouraged to complete a personal project whilst on Skomer. This could encompass any topic which interests them, from moths to public engagement.
We admit we are likely biased, but Skomer is a pretty cool place to spend 3-months. Alongside learning new skills and living on a National Nature Reserve, you’ll get to meet and work with people from all walks of life.
|Weekly volunteers, long-term volunteers, and staff after a summer BBQ and kubb © Skomer Assistant Warden|
|Farm Fest '22 © Skomer VO|
How can I afford to volunteer?We recognise that volunteering for an extended period of time can be tricky. Unfortunately, for many early career conservationists this balancing act can be too much. We’ve been working to make volunteering on Skomer more accessible, and offer the following benefits:
- We provide free accommodation (including bills) on Skomer for the duration of your volunteering placement. Please note that accommodation will be shared from time to time.
- Travel expenses to and from Skomer from within the UK are also covered, including parking where required. Travel to and from the island via boat is also provided free of charge.
- We have a training budget for our long-term volunteers. Training provided will vary depending on the time of year, however may include a brushcutter or first aid course. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be supplied.
- Uniform and binoculars are provided for the duration of your time on the island.
- Additionally long-term volunteers who successfully complete and write up their personal project will be eligible for a £250 bursary from the Friends of Skokholm and Skomer.
Please note, all expenses must be claimed back through the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. We are unable to pay for travel or parking upfront.
Where are they now?
Two of our long-term volunteers from 2022 have kindly answered a couple of questions for us about their experience of volunteering on Skomer. Don't just take it from us - listen to them!
|Lira, in her new job at Walthamstow Wetlands, holding a very small spider!|
When were you an LTV on Skomer? Hello everyone, my name is Lira and I was a long-term volunteer during the Autumn (July-October) on Skomer Island.
Favourite memory/ies from Skomer? I initially applied to volunteer on Skomer island for the hands-on experience and to gain some practical conservation skills, however I soon learnt that Skomer had so much more to offer than I expected! The weather was absolutely stunning during these months which made exploring the island such a treat- I had countless unforgettable swims with puffins over my head and seals below my feet! For someone like me, who loves wildlife and nature, you could spend hours exploring the island and almost always finish the day admiring a spectacular sunset. With no shops on the island, one of the most valuable things I learnt was how to make a gooooood bread. And with the island being cut off from the mainland water supply, I also became so much more aware of water wastage and my bad habits around water usage. These are things I didn’t expect to learn but I am so grateful for- you won’t learn these things unless your living on an island like Skomer!
What are you up to now? With the help from the Skomer island team (they are incredibly supportive and helpful) I got my first job in the wildlife sector the week I arrived back home! I now work with the London Wildlife Trust as a Visitor Engagement and Volunteer ranger at Walthamstow Wetlands - the largest urban wetlands in Europe! Without the skills and confidence gained from my Skomer experience, and without the encouragement from the amazing staff, I wouldn’t have applied for my current job. Skomer island will always be a special place with some of my favourite memories ever!
|Anna working on her personal project inside one of the exclosures on the island.|
When were you an LTV on Skomer? I was a long-term volunteer on Skomer from July - October 2022.
Favourite memory/ies from Skomer? I loved spending last summer as an LTV on Skomer island. I have so many happy memories of my time there. I learnt so much about Skomer's wildlife and what it takes to run a small island nature reserve (delivering welcome talks, wildlife surveying and fixing signs and benches!). I enjoyed meeting volunteers and visitors, sharing golden summer evenings with the puffins, and climbing into caves to monitor the seals pups! However, my standout memory has to be the night spent assisting with the storm petrel ringing. Having a tiny storm petrel sat in my hand with Manx Shearwater flying over head and waves crashing in the background was certainly a magical and unforgettable experience.
What are you up to now? After leaving Skomer I have started a new conservation internship on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Here I have been assisting with a variety of conservation projects from vegetation management in the cloud forest upon Green Mountain, tagging the Endemic Ascension Frigatebird chicks, to counting Green turtle tracks and nests on the beaches. Skomer was a great stepping stone in preparing me for this internship because, whilst I'm no longer just a 10 minute boat ride away from the mainland, many aspects of island living remain similar.
You can hear from more previous long-term volunteers as part of last year’s LTV blog.
Please note that the deadline for applications is 11.59pm on Sunday, 15th January 2023. For any queries regarding long-term volunteering, or for an informal chat, please feel free to contact Skomer visitor officer, Beth Thompson, at Skomer.VO@welshwildlife.org.
We look forward to receiving your application. Pob lwc!
Beth, Skomer VO.