Dan, who travelled to Croatia in 2022 and the Knepp Estate in 2023, wanted to share his experience of volunteering as Group Leader for Operation Wallacea at the University of Southampton over the past few years.
In my first year of Uni I saw Opwall posters around campus and was intrigued and following a few talks by the team I signed up to volunteer as a Research Assistant for both the terrestrial and marine sites in Croatia. As a result of the pandemic I ended up postponing and was offered the chance to become Group Leader for my University. Not only did the financial benefits seem great but also gave me an opportunity to boost my CV as well as supporting an organisation which is researching and protecting critical species and habitat. My role mostly consisted of promoting the expedition talks, sharing my fundraising experience at the fundraising talks and helping organise fundraising events.
What did I actually do?
Opwall staff, who were very helpful and organised, shared the details of the Uni talks, files (social media posts, email template, powerpoint etc) and sent posters/postcards for me to distribute (not to forget the free hoodie!). Having adapted the generic Opwall email message, I was able to just copy and paste for each faculty department office and employability officer with the idea of them passing it on to relevant staff and students. I also shared the talks via social media (Facebook and Instagram) by asking societies (e.g. Biology Society, Marine Conservation, Extinction Rebellion etc) to put a post or story out about the in-person talk at the University as well as directly sharing it to groups. Around the University campus I put up posters and placed postcards in areas for people to take and handed some out after lectures. Most of the work was during the first few months of the academic year as well as some after the Christmas break with virtual talks. Directly sharing my Croatia experience on Linkedin inspired one of my connections at my Uni to follow my footsteps in volunteering on the same programme a year later. Learning and exploring the Mediterranean ecology of the beautiful Krka National Park and Silba Island was clearly infectious!
Continuing as a Group Leader enabled me to volunteer last summer at the Knepp Estate which gave me experience more focused to a conservation career. I particularly enjoyed learning the application of the Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) metric which I had covered as part of my degree. On the Opwall expeditions I made friends and connections with great, like-minded people – both fellow students and staff with vasts amount of knowledge.
How much did I save?
In total, thousands! For all Uni students who volunteer you receive a discount (up to 90%) equivalent to 10% of their cost.
I would definitely recommend becoming a Group Leader for your University not only to save money but also to boost your CV and potentially gain future opportunities with Opwall.