We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

Environmental volunteer - Matthew Bennett

We caught up with Matt to find out how he’s enjoying his role and where he hopes it may lead.

Matthew Bennett, volunteer environmental assistant, working on a computer in the Leeds office Matthew Bennett, volunteer environmental assistant
"I hoped that I would meet people and build up my network of contacts. I also wanted to broaden my range of experience and get used to spending time in a professional environment." Matthew Bennett

Matt studied geography at Durham University. He has always been passionate about the environment and knew from an early age that he wanted to work in this sector. However, after graduating Matt felt that, for all his academic expertise, he needed some more vocational experience before he could become a serious contender in today’s competitive job market.

How did you first come into contact with the Trust?

I started volunteering with The Conservation Volunteers and on my very first day with them I was lucky enough to meet Gavin Beat, Senior Environmental Scientist with the Trust. We started talking and Gavin advised me to send in my CV, and it all went from there.

So what does a volunteer Environmental Assistant do?

I work here around one day a week, usually in the office but sometimes from home. It’s very flexible. I’ve been looking into invasive weed species with Chris John (National Ecologist), mapping the spread of the different weed species across the country and then putting a report together. When I first started working on this project my role was going to be limited to the mapping, but then I was given the chance to put the report together as well. It was 60 pages in the end and really good experience.

Have you put your degree into practice?

At university I deliberately chose modules that involved using GIS as it’s something that has always interested me. It’s great to get the chance to put those skills into practice, otherwise it’s so easy to start forgetting things. When I first started here Matt Shepherdson, GIS Specialist, spent a few hours with me making sure I knew my way around GIS, and I know I can always contact him for advice.

What have you most enjoyed about volunteering with us?

I’ve enjoyed using my degree and putting into practice all that I learned in a more academic setting. I’ve also enjoyed meeting new people. Once I had the opportunity to go out on a site visit with Chris John which I really enjoyed. It was good to see the canals as a real place rather than just a blue line on my computer screen.

What did you hope to get out of it?

Many things. I hoped that I would meet people and build up my network of contacts. I also wanted to broaden my range of experience and get used to spending time in a professional environment. When you’re unemployed for any length of time there’s a risk of loosing your confidence and self-esteem. Through volunteering here I know that I’m doing important work and that the work I do is valued. 

Have you achieved all this?

Yes and more. I would definitely recommend volunteering here to anyone.

Last date edited: 10 July 2015