Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guesthouse

Financial assistance for young volunteers (JHMF and SABF)

Two funds have been established to provide financial assistance to anyone between the ages of 16 and 24 years (inclusive) who wishes to volunteer as part of the Wardening team at Fair Isle Bird Observatory (FIBO).

The John Harrison Memorial Fund (JHMF) was established in 1968 by Richard Richardson, in memory of John Harrison of Hunstanton, Norfolk, who visited the island three times before he died at 19 years old.

The Simon Aspinall Bursary Fund (SABF) was established in 2015 by Jack and Sylvia Aspinall to honour the memory of their son Simon who served as an assistant warden at the Bird Observatory in 1987, revisiting the island in subsequent years with his brother Richard to undertake research on the Fair Isle Wren but who died in 2011 aged 53 from motor neurone disease.

Wardening team volunteers will take part in the routine work of FIBO, which can be very varied. The type of work depends upon the time of year: daily duties can involve data entry on computers, migration census, breeding bird surveys, ringing, trap repairs, fence repairs, tree planting, visitor liaison (guided walks etc), maintenance tasks and maybe even a shift in the Obs bar! The Obs team is a small and hardworking one and all staff and volunteers help each other out during the year, so you may be required to join in with the other staff in laying tables or helping with dishes. Work hours are usually 09:00-18:00 hrs, but this is variable and in the seabird breeding season in particular may be longer (but nobody wants to miss the Storm Petrel ringing, even if it does go on until 4am!).

The main purpose of the JHMF and SABF is to provide volunteers with experience of working at an Observatory, so it is not essential to have experience of any of the tasks that you will be asked to undertake, but it is helpful for us to know what you hope to get out of your visit and what skills you already have in order to be able to plan your workload. Everyone is likely to pick up new skills or turn their hand to something they haven’t tried before and you will be trained for any task that is new to you. We also encourage regular communication between yourself and the Warden during your stay to make sure you are enjoying life at FIBO and you get the experience you hope for. If there are particular aspects of the work you wish to gain more experience of (for future employment prospects for example), then it would be a good idea to speak to the Warden beforehand to see what will be possible.

Grants cover the cost of travel by the cheapest means possible from your home to FIBO and back. Full travel costs may only be given for visits of two weeks or longer. Whilst at the Observatory, awardees are required to pay a small amount per day (£10 in 2019, but check with the Observatory for any updates) to cover the cost of three meals a day, provision of bed linen and towels, laundry facilities etc.

If you would like to apply for a JHMF or SABF grant, the first stage is to check for current volunteer vacancies. This will also give you an idea of the varying work carried out at different times of year and enable you to chose a time to visit that would be most appropriate for your particular interests. You should then fill in a standard volunteer application form including the section on applying for a JHMF or SABF grant and return it to the Observatory by the application deadline given on the website. Applications outside of this time may occasionally still be accepted, but speak to the Observatory beforehand.

You should hear from the Observatory within two weeks of the deadline as to whether you have been successful in your volunteer application and whether you have been awarded a grant. If you have been successful, please contact the Observatory to confirm your booking and pay a deposit of £50 towards your accommodation.

As a condition of the award, volunteers are expected to provide the Observatory with written feedback of their stay. This should be in the style of a report that could be used in FIBO publications, including the website.

Volunteering at FIBO can be hard work (it’s not just birding all day!) but is very rewarding. If you are hardworking, enthusiastic and flexible, then we look forward to hearing from you.