V.R.O Training Scheme

Over 15 years, we have appointed more than 65 VROs to assist the Reserves Team in the management of the Trust’s 33 nature reserves. In return, the VROs have gained firsthand knowledge and experience in reserves management and also had access to certified courses such as chainsaw, minibus driving and trailer towing, first aid and use of pesticides.

These positions are advertised and potential candidates are subject to a formal interview.

The placements provide invaluable training and practical experience in wildlife conservation.  Most of our VROs were already Volunteer Task Force members and most have since secured employment with an environmental/nature conservation organisation.

Quotes from past V.R.O’s

Fran Mudd 1Fran Mudd, Senior Ecologist with Total Ecology

“I began volunteering for DWT in 2007 after finishing a zoology degree at Newcastle University.  I had some spare time and wanted to put it to good use.  Being outdoors, particularly on nature reserves, appealed to me as I have always had an interest in wildlife.  It wasn’t long before a Volunteer Reserves Officer (V.R.O.) position became available and I successfully applied.

Aside from the obvious benefits of the formal training courses, the V.R.O. scheme provided me with the confidence to lead and organise a group of volunteers and carry out all health & safety preparation beforehand, which might sound a bit boring but was really important when searching for paid work!

Because of the V.R.O. scheme I was able to obtain part time work with Durham Biodiversity Partnership, carrying out data entry, followed by seasonal work with the local authority, helping with summer events and practical work.  This lead to a permanent position as a countryside ranger.  With a variety of experiences on my C.V. I was able to apply for secondments to project officer, volunteer co-ordinator and site management positions, and in 2011 an opportunity arose to return to D.W.T as the Wild Woods Project Officer.  I enjoyed being a V.R.O. so much, I came back!”

DSCN3471__1432630506_82.68.180.46Michael Rogers, Diffuse Pollution Coordinator for Northeast Wildlife Trusts

“After studying Geology and Physical Geography at University between 2004 and 2008 I began volunteering with Durham Wildlife Trust in August 2009. I saw it as a way to gain experience in practical conservation, find out if it was the type of work I wanted to follow as a career but also as a way to meet like-minded people in a new area.

I became a Volunteer Reserves Officer (V.R.O.) in September 2009 and committed 3 days a week to the role until July 2010. Juggling the role with a part time job was hard work but the experience was invaluable, giving me a foothold in the conservation sector, and in July 2010 I was offered the role of Living Waterways Officer. The project, funded through the Environment Agency, has been both an exciting and challenging role. The knowledge I gained as a V.R.O. gave me the experience and qualifications to take on the job but it has still been a steep learning curve.

Almost every day I learn something new and in this sector you never really stop learning. Whether it is a new example for a tool safety talk (usually taken from a clumsy accident I’ve had the week before) or describing otter signs to a group of volunteers then finding something that looks absolutely nothing like what I’ve described, to designing the size and shape needed for a perfect wildlife pond and then finding a pot of funding to create it. A career in conservation with the Wildlife Trust is probably the most diverse and exciting job you could envisage and volunteering is the way to gain the experience needed to get your foot in the door!”


DSCN7713Katherine Knox

“The skills and experiences I gained whilst I was a V.R.O. at D.W.T. led on to me being offered two employment opportunities within the environmental sector, I choose to work for an ecological consultancy as an assistant ecologist, where I was able to practice the survey and species identification skills and leadership skills I had developed whilst I was a V.R.O.  In addition to the compulsory training courses (such as first aid, chainsaw and pesticide) the V.R.O. programme also allowed me to choose some training, for this I attended a phase 1 habitat survey course and a number of plant identification courses, which have since come in very useful!  

The V.R.O. role is enjoyable and flexible to allow development of personal ecological/conservation interests as well as working with friendly and enthusiatic staff and volunteers, and has been a huge benefit to my C.V. and gaining employment in the sector.  I would recommend anyone rooting for a career in ecology or nature conservation to consider volunteering with D.W.T. and the volunteer reserve officer programme, as the programme allows you to develop a range of skills and experiences for a range of jobs in the sector.”


DSCN6223__1432630567_82.68.180.46Keith McSweeny – Forest Craftsperson with The Forestry Commission

My opportunity to be a V.R.O. with Durham Wildlife Trust was a fantastic experience. 

I had decided that I wanted a career in conservation / land management and the V.R.O. scheme gave me the skills and experience that I needed to get the career I desired. I had no idea that learning and developing skills in conservation could be so much fun! The volunteers and the staff at D.W.T. were great and they were always there to support me.

The really important bit is that the V.R.O. scheme enabled me to successfully apply for a role with the R.S.P.B. as an Estate Worker, which led to a job as Assistant Warden. I have now moved on to a role with the Forestry Commission. I truly feel that my experience as V.R.O. was instrumental in kick starting my career.


DSCN8695__1432630619_82.68.180.46Laura Tedstone – Heathland Heartlands Officer with Durham Wildlife Trust

Since finishing my time as a V.R.O. I have had the opportunity to go on and coordinate the Lower Wear Catchment Walkover Project and now the Heathland Hearlands Project with Durham Wildlife Trust.

I was able to transfer the skills and knowledge gained as V.R.O. to encourage and inspire volunteers to carry out walkover surveys of burns in the local area.

During my time as V.R.O. I gained so much experience in habitat management as well as managing volunteers which I couldn’t have gained in any other way. Overall though I had great fun and didn’t even mind getting out of bed in all weathers – most of the time! I still dream of gobs-in the tree sense of course.