What's in it for you?

You will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn more about how biodiversity and geodiversity data are collected, managed and used.
  • Develop skills in using software such as Excel and MapInfo GIS
  • Increase knowledge of local biodiversity

Below you will find testimonies from some of our volunteers, past and present, who can best say what they feel they have gained from the experience.

Rebecca Pringle

I have been volunteering at TVERC since June this year. I actually changed my job to volunteer here as I thought it was very important to get back to doing what I want to do in the future, which is to be actively involved in conservation. I met some of the team at the Recorders’ Day in February at the Natural History Museum and they seemed like a great bunch of people.

Since starting, I have created and reformatted citations for the Local Wildlife Sites in Berkshire. This has made it easier for the team to do data searches in Berkshire. I have formatted data so that it ready to be input into Recorder and I am currently creating a GIS layer for habitat information which is sent in along with survey data to TVERC from various sources.

I had previously only briefly used GIS systems so I have learnt a lot on how to navigate around MapInfo. Volunteering at TVERC has strengthened my cv and made me more confident to apply for jobs I thought I wouldn’t have a chance at.

 

Trevor Orchard

During my time at TVERC I have had the pleasure to work with both the data sources and the data sets themselves. Working with transferring information into Excel format I have had chance to become familiar with a variety of reporting techniques as well as standard reports, something I feel is a personally valuable experience. Working the the data sets I have gained valuable experience in handling the GIS program as well as experience in translating topographical information in the GIS data set with real world structures and environments. This I feel has left me much better not only at map reading but better informed of the habitats I have worked with and better able to understand and identify them in the field (Though I am still far from a capable field surveyor of those habitats).  

Volunteering at TVERC has provided me real experience in the workings of GIS data management. It has also given me valuable experience with the general environment and tools of GIS management.

I think I am proudest of my work on the Berkshire Orchards data set. While by the nature of my volunteering I am not working on critical (at least in the sense of priority) work I have felt none the less that by my contribution less critical work has been done which would otherwise have not been accomplished/addressed due to higher priority work always being present for paid staff. In some ways I am also proud of this fact, that some useful data has been processed and added that would otherwise not have been managed in a suitable time frame and as a result this data is now present to be accessed by those who need it.

 

James Brooks

I volunteer for TVERC in a data management role at Signal Court, Eynsham, generally for two days per week. I chose to do this because I am 'between jobs' (mostly), and I wanted to continue using my skills in data management and learn new ones. Working with biodiversity data for an organization committed to facilitating responsible decision-making in environmental management was particularly important to me.

Typically, my days will be spent processing observations of, say, birds, mammals, butterflies, moths and/or dragonflies in spreadsheets so that standard-format records can be uploaded to the Recorder 6 database. In practice, this can mean manipulating raw data to make it case correct, assigning it to appropriate data fields, clarifying the names of species, species recorders and/or determiners, and checking or supplying location names and Ordnance Survey grid references. I can verify the latter often just using MapInfo, but sometimes I need to refer to other, online location mapping tools.

I am learning to use MapInfo for other purposes; for instance, to edit the 'slivers' which appear as artefacts of polygon boundary creation. For me, this is just a beginning, and my intention is to gain facility with using GIS software. At home, I aim to teach myself more, using QGIS, a free and open geographical information system, and OS OpenData.

I have enjoyed working in an office shared by staff (and volunteers) from TVERC, the Wychwood Project and Oxfordshire County Council. I have experience working for organizations which serve an international market, so it has been useful for me to focus at a different scale, that of county and community. This latter perspective may be more familiar to most readers, but for me exposure to the interface of biodiversity recording with local environmental governance, policy and planning has been instructive. I've internalized the "Think globally, act locally" mindset a bit more since being at TVERC.

 

James Gillespie

My first tasks at TVERC ranged from validating species data to maintaining, updating and creating new layers in MapInfo for their Local Wildlife Sites (LWS). This would involve everything from imputing species data from phase one ecological survey reports into their database to preparing maps for LWS surveys.

Once I had become comfortable with the systems used at TVERC I was able to assist with one of TVERCs larger projects, the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) for West Berkshire. The AWI involved using current aerial photography and many historic maps of West Berkshire to confirm that an area had been continuously wooded since the 1600s.

I was able to learn a great deal during my time at TVERC. Validating species data improved my knowledge of UK flora and fauna. Working on the LWS I was able to improve my GIS skills through using MapInfo for many tasks, like layer creating, polygon manipulation and thematic mapping, along with learning how biodiversity data is collected managed and used. Working on the AWI really helped to improve my map and photo interpretation skills, through identifying and defining ancient woodland.

I believe I was able to help TVERC transform some of the masses of data they get form public and private surveys into a format that was useful. I was able to help with the necessary work to set up sites surveys and manage the data that had been collected for the LWS.

Having the opportunity to work in a professional environment with the range of expertise TVERC has benefited me in many ways. From improving my biodiversity and geodiversity knowledge to increasing my confidence with GIS software. One unexpected benefit was developing my photo and map interpretation skills while working on the AWI. This is something that is now a large part of my current job as a Remote Sensing Surveyor with Ordnance Survey.

 

Gavin Pill

During my time as a volunteer with TVERC I have enjoyed an interesting and varied workload and have had the opportunity to contribute to a number of projects. My primary task has been to assist in the management and verification of ecological data using GIS software and online resources to ensure the accuracy and validity of records obtained from survey reports and other sources. Other tasks have included the creation of new GIS layers such as mapping and digitising Oxfordshire’s headwaters, as well as the editing of existing GIS layers, the creation of local wildlife site maps, the completion of site spreadsheets, researching and contacting landowners in relation to the verification of site ownership and to seek permission to conduct site surveys, and finally, the extraction and consolidation of data and information for the Berkshire Ancient Woodland Inventory review project.

Volunteering in a supportive and friendly environment with TVERC has allowed me to gain valuable skills and experience in managing and analysing ecological data, knowledge of ecological recording in terms of how data is collected and used, as well as an understanding of ancient woodland characteristics and wildlife site designations, and through the use of MapInfo I have also been able to gain experience and develop knowledge and skills in many aspects of GIS. Above all else I’ve learnt of the important role that environmental record centres play within the planning system, by providing accurate data and information to people, organisations and local authorities, enabling the implementation of more informed decision-making processes.

On top of providing me with valuable experience, gaining new skills and building upon my existing skillset, volunteering with TVERC has also been beneficial to me by opening up opportunities which I might not otherwise have been aware of, has allowed me to develop new contacts and connections, has helped to give me clarity with respect to determining the direction in which I would like my career to develop, and ultimately has provided me with a platform from which to move forward, secure a paid position and begin to fulfil my career ambitions. Therefore, whether you are seeking to establish a career within the ecology sector, or whether you simply have an interest in ecology, wildlife, the environment or the natural world in general, then I would certainly recommend TVERC as a great place to volunteer.

 

Get in touch to find out more tverc@oxfordshire.gov.uk