I began volunteering with the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project as part of a 3 month Graduate Volunteer Placement opportunity in 2016. This was made possible through funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund who aim to engage people with their heritage through a bid to help conserve threatened habitats and species.
I first began by helping to organise a week-long festival of free events in Lincolnshire, aiming to raise awareness of Lincolnshire's chalk streams and their rarity. This involved planning children's activities, guided walks, stream cleans, organising a photography competition and creating advertising materials and merchandise
Following the festival's success, I decided to continue volunteering with the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project, and still am today. One of the great things about volunteering is that no two days are the same so you can gain a huge variety of skills and experience
If the sun is shining in the morning, you'll most likely find me doing a Riverfly survey at one of the many chalk streams in the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Waders on, it's time for a kick sample, after which we identify the invertebrates found to use as a guide to the chalk stream's health. Different invertebrates can tell us different things about the flow of the stream, how silted it is and even if it's polluted. This information is then put on the Riverfly Partnership website for partners such as the Environment Agency to keep on record
The samples are also photographed under the microscope to be added to the Invertebrate Reference Catalogue, a guide designed to help new Riverfly volunteers easily identify and log the invertebrates they find in their survey.
After an obligatory tea break and a quick social networking update, it's time to log images from the night vision cameras set up around the Wolds to capture images of Water Vole and Otter. Once logged, they're sent to the Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust headquarters where they can be used by other partners including Anglian Water
By logging the whereabouts of these chalk stream mammals we are able to plan future conservation and restoration sites whilst also raising awareness of chalk stream wildlife (although the locations are highly secretive!
Another cup of tea then it's time to start planning events thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This involves creating posters to advertise, visiting schools, liaising with landowners and venue owners as well as leaflet drops (with a few pit stops along the way!)
One of my favourite things about volunteering is learning all about the amazing local wildlife found around our rare and beautiful chalk streams, teaching other people to love it too and getting hands-on and out and about in this incredibly varied and rewarding volunteer role