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Name: Kat Coupland
Age: 24
Kat Coupland
What does your volunteering involve?
I volunteer as Assistant Warden at RSPB Belfast Harbour Reserve. The work is varied, and includes practical habitat management tasks such as scrub clearance and rush cutting, and I also spend time talking to visitors, and ensuring that everyone enjoys the reserve. Additionally, I help to manage teams of volunteers carrying out work on the reserve, and also update a weekly blog and recent sightings webpage.
When did you first begin volunteering?
In September 2012.
What inspired you to get involved?
I have always had a passion for wildlife and nature conservation, so it is very rewarding to volunteer within this field. I finished my Masters in September 2012, and was looking for a volunteering opportunity which would allow me to gain skills in conservation work, to increase my chances of finding paid employment within this sector. I was inspired to volunteer with the RSPB by the unique location of the reserve, as it is right in the heart of the Belfast Lough Harbour Estate, with views of the Lough traffic over to Cave Hill in the background.
What skills and qualities are required for your volunteering role?
I have to have good communication skills, as I work with a range of staff, volunteers and visitors. I also have to be willing to get involved in a range of outdoor tasks in all weather, which can be physical and muddy. Good teamwork skills are also needed, and a positive attitude always helps to get the hard work done!
How often do you volunteer?
Up to 4 days per week.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering?
I enjoy the variety of work that I do, and the new skills that I have learnt. The highlight of my volunteering has to be seeing the habitat management changes having a positive effect on wildlife, and seeing the everyday species interactions that happen on the nature reserve.
Why would you encourage others to get involved?
Volunteering with the RSPB is a fantastic way to get involved with a large conservation charity, and is a great way to develop your skills, share your passion for wildlife and do something positive with your spare time. It can also increase your chances of finding employment within the organisation, for example, after volunteering for 6 months I gained a short term research contract with the RSPB, surveying breeding waders. This type of contract can come up regularly and are another great way of gaining valuable experience.
What advice would you give someone starting to volunteer?
I would tell them to get involved in everything that is offered to them, so they can gain and experience as much as possible and see where they fit best. This type of volunteering role is very rewarding when you can see the results of your hard work, and we try to make it as fun as possible even when there is lots of work to be done! Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and gain experience that will help your chances of gaining employment.