We all want to leave our mark in this world, but the day-to-day keeps us from fulfilling our commitment to our planet and ourselves. When we were younger we thought we’d be making real changes by now. And yet each day, as we make our way to class or work, we’re reminded of the promises we’ve yet to fulfill. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. We can’t live of our dreams all the time. However, we can set aside some time to rediscover our love for nature and help protect it.
We’ve all seen horrific images showing us the state of marine wildlife: whales’ stomachs full of plastic, sea turtles tangled in nets or with random items stuck on them, hundreds of sea birds unable to fly due to oil on their feathers. We look at this on our phone or computer and feel helpless. However, there are plenty of ways we can help these animals, as well as the people who are making it their life’s work to protect them and their ocean home. One is volunteering with a particular organization or community that does conservation, education, or awareness related to these issues.
But perhaps you’ve been discouraged when looking up groups or locations where you can give your time to help. There are plenty of websites claiming to have information on volunteer positions but are actually travel websites selling package tours that might include a day or two of actual interaction with groups who are working for conservation. It’s easy to weed out the ones that aren’t really about nature because when the outrageous cost is broken down, you notice it’s more about having some ethics included in your sunbathing and selfie taking. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, since plenty of conservation communities need this kind of tourism income to survive and continue their work. However, if you’re looking for ways of being of service to the ocean and its creatures, here are some options you might be interested in.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary
This institution is tasked with protecting the whales in the area surrounding the islands of Hawaii and also does outreach and education, so that the population understands the importance of marine life for all of us. Staff at the sanctuary also work on monitoring and researching in order to find solutions for the whales, as well as other species in the area. Interns work in a variety of positions, ranging from assisting researchers to welcoming visitors to the different sanctuary locations. One thing to keep in mind is that they ask for a minimum commitment of 6 months.
The Sea Shepherd
ASVO Association of Volunteer for Service of Protected Areas in Costa Rica
This organization’s main goal is sea turtle conservation. To achieve this requires protection of turtle nests and hatchlings, as well as environmental education and community outreach. Volunteers can help in several different areas, from doing night patrols, collecting eggs for nest relocation, teaching English to rural communities, even releasing newly hatched turtles to the ocean.
Marine Conservation Institute
Perhaps you’re looking for a new way to use your skills and passion to support marine wildlife. This organization uses research findings to locate ecosystems in desperate need of protection. They also work on different levels of national and international government organizations to promote conservation. More than a volunteer position, this organization has options for internships where you can develop skills to discover a new purpose for your abilities. The location of your service will depend on which area you’d like to focus on. The science internship is focused on assisting staff on research projects. Policy interns work closely with legislative advocacy staff on understanding and awareness on current issues. Communications interns work with those tasked with educating the public through outreach. They learn how manage press releases as well as dealing with social media outlets.
St. Abbs Marine Station in Scottland
This non-profit organization’s main purpose is research on issues and environmental impact of pollution on marine life. Volunteers assist with investigative projects, in collaboration with universities of the area, in order to find answers and understand the challenges the oceanic wildlife is currently facing.
Main photograph by Anuar Patjane