Residential Volunteer


Dumfries, Scotland

Volunteer • Full Time

Sectors: conservation & wildlife, ecology

Closing date: Not specified, apply soon!

Where: Mersehead, Dumfries & Galloway

When: Early September 2024 to end February 2025

Commitment: 5 days a week for 6 months (option to extend this to up to 12 months)

Why We Want You:

Would you like to wake up every morning and go to work on an incredible coastal reserve with amazing views across the Solway Firth and the Galloway hills? Are you passionate about nature conservation and helping visitors to have an amazing experience with wildlife? If so, Mersehead would love to hear from you!

Under RSPB management since 1993, Mersehead contains a wide variety of habitats in breath-taking surroundings set adjacent to the wide expanses of intertidal sandflats on the Solway Firth. Large expanses of sky and seascape give a feeling of escapism, with stunning views towards the Lakeland fells and the Isle of Man, and Criffel and the Galloway hills which shelter the reserve.

We are looking for an enthusiastic residential volunteer to join our small, friendly team here at Mersehead to help with the delivery of both our practical and visitor experience work programmes. As a member of the RSPB Mersehead team, you will become fully involved in all the work required to run a nature reserve. This will include wildlife surveys, practical habitat work, working shifts at the visitor centre – where you will enthuse the public through face to face engagement – assisting with events, managing day volunteers, maintaining infrastructure . . . the list is endless! With such a variety of work required, every day is different. You will be hard working and prepared to get stuck into whatever the day brings.

What’s In It For You:

This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to wildlife conservation, bring people closer to nature and start a career in conservation. You will learn what it takes to run and manage a nature reserve and will gain a valuable insight into Europe's largest conservation charity.

You will be living in your own room within our converted farmhouse which is located in the heart of the reserve, allowing you to become fully immersed in the life of RSPB Mersehead. Badgers and barn owls are common sightings from the farmhouse windows in the evenings! Working alongside staff and volunteers, you will gain a range of practical, wildlife survey and people engagement skills and experience.

Throughout the winter months you will survey wetland birds across the reserve and count thousands of Svalbard Barnacle geese. In addition to this, you will assist with vital work to monitor and maintain the anti-predator fence for ground nesting birds, particularly Lapwing. The Natterjack toad, a European protected species and the UK's rarest amphibian, can only be found in Scotland along the Solway Estuary with the largest colony found at RSPB Mersehead. You will be involved in vital habitat preparation work ahead of the Natterjack breeding season.

Practical habitat work will be hard manual work, including strimming and grass cutting, scrub removal, fencing, and footpath repairs.

Enthusing and inspiring visitors about the wildlife they can see and experience at Mersehead, as well as the wider work of the RSPB, is equally as important as the practical work to create the spectacle. Therefore, you should expect to spend some time contributing to our visitor experience operations, including working at the Visitor Centre, and developing interpretation.

We run activities for children and families, as well as special events for adults, and you will be encouraged to take the opportunity to help in planning and delivering these.

There will also be opportunities to spend time working at other sites in the Scottish Lowlands regions, to gain experience of a range of habitats. These include an ancient woodland, mixed wetland and woodland and coastal machair.

We will provide support and coaching through on the job learning to enhance the skills and experiences you need to be successful in pursuing a nature conservation career.


We need someone who has an enthusiastic and friendly personality, works well in a team, and is keen to learn lots about conservation and wildlife. You must have good communication and people engagement skills with the confidence to talk to people from all walks of life.

You must be happy working outdoors in all weathers in what can be very challenging physical and repetitive work. Some weekend working will be necessary, but time off will be given during the week instead.

You must be over 18, and a full clean driving licence is advantageous as this will allow you to drive the reserve's vehicles.

Good bird identification skills, an ability to use computers/software and some previous practical/people engagement experience would be beneficial but not essential. Most of all, you just need enthusiasm and a passion for developing a conservation career, as well as confidence in meeting and speaking to people.


This is a remote site so your own transport would be advantageous. There is no charge to take part in the scheme. It is your responsibility to cover the cost of your transport to and from the reserve, and to provide and cover the cost of your food during your stay. The RSPB will provide accommodation, together with basic services, free of charge for the period you are volunteering, and cover any expenses incurred as a necessary part of your work on the reserve

For more information, contact:

Freya Sanders

Email: [email protected]

Please apply as soon as possible.

Find out more & apply