Marsh Young Volunteer Award for Marine Conservation

This Award is run in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts and recognises a young volunteer who has made an outstanding contribution to marine conservation and who has furthered the work of the Wildlife Trusts in this area.

The Award is open to all 47 Wildlife Trusts, and volunteers are nominated by local Trusts. The Award is delivered in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts ‘Living Seas’ projects, a scheme for the conservation of the seas and marine wildlife.

Nominations are gathered by the Wildlife Trusts and a shortlist is put forward to the MCT for the winner or winners to be selected.

Arun Curson and Josh Symes 2023

Arun Curson, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust  

Arun is, and has been, the youngest marine champion at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Arun has been a volunteer with the Trust since the age of 9 on intertidal surveys and following this became a marine champion for the Secrets of the Solent project for 4 years. When that finished last year, Arun has continued to support the Trust’s marine work. He takes his surveying very seriously, researching the species of the shore and has become one of the top identifiers and experienced surveyors helping others with their identification. Arun was on BBC Countryfile last year with the project ‘Secrets of the Solent’ where he spoke about his passion for marine conservation with John Craven. For his Duke of Edinburgh medal he chose to volunteer with the Trust. He reviewed and even wrote some of their online training for ‘Secrets of the Solent’, ensuring young people would understand the content and find it engaging. Arun takes opportunity to get involved in conservation he leaps at it, and he is now joining generation Sea.  

Josh Symes, Cornwall Wildlife Trust 

Josh has been an invaluable member of the Cornwall Wildlife Trusts Shoresearch Team for many years. He was recruited as the Volunteer Coordinator for Shoresearch in 2019 and he held this role for 3 years until summer 2022. Josh did an amazing job at developing the Shoresearch project in Cornwall and expanding his knowledge. He also developed excellent skills and engagement, education and his boundless energy and enthusiasm inspired a countless number of new volunteers and members of the public who learned so much from him about amazing marine life. Josh was also closely involved in the development and testing of the Shoresearch Data Portal and App and helped to develop intertidal fish surveys with Natural England and The Environment Agency. Josh completed his degree in Marine Biology last year and is now working as a marine life guide on a sailing boat based in Penzance, Cornwall. Josh is a valued member of the Shoresearch Volunteer Team and continues to help out at many Shoresearch surveys. Josh has also made a great contribution to local marine conservation through his underwater photography and his excellent social media skills. He created many short films during lockdown and has appeared on TV on several occasions. 

Previous Winners

Lizzie Pennefather, Cumbria Wildlife Trust 

Lizzie is walking the Cumbrian Coastal Way (from Duddon Bridge to the Esk Bridge) in a bid to raise money and awareness about oceans and marine life. The 120 mile walk will take her about 15 days and she is hoping to raise £2,500 for the Cumbria Wildlife Trust. As she walks, Lizzie will also be undertaking voluntary work along the way with Living Seas North West. She has fond childhood memories of this coastline, which contains 10 Marine Conservation Zones and includes a wide range of habitats and ecosystems which are currently at threat from pollution etc. Lizzie hopes that her walk will raise awareness of these issues and encourage more people to be engaged with the work that the Wildlife Trusts do. 

Joshua Drake

Joshua Drake   

Joshua has shown exceptional dedication to regularly undertaking beach cleans and helping to spread positive messages about looking after the marine environment, despite the problems faced with national lockdowns. After visiting the Trimley Marshes in Suffolk with his mother, Joshua saw the ongoing issues caused by depositions of plastic rubbish on the foreshore and this triggered his dedication to beach cleans.   


As well as his continued effort via multiple extended visits to the marshes, Joshua has shared important messages regarding the need to reduce ocean littering, along with the devastating environmental impacts that plastic can cause – particularly the ongoing problem of plastic ‘nurdles’. He has collected thousands of these small ‘raw plastic’ spheres from Trimley Marshes foreshore and carefully reports all beach clean findings to the Marine Conservation Society for them to add to their national database. In September 2020, Josh did a special foreshore litter clean-up in dedication to a young Eco-warrior and beach clean campaigner from Australia who tragically died before his 12th birthday.  


Laura Thornton, Ashleigh Carter and Natalie Harris

Laura Thornton, Cornwall Wildlife Trust 
Laura is passionate about sharing her love for the sea and everything in it and she does so conscientiously and tirelessly, always with a smile on her face and a kind word for all the she meets. She has been involved with the Trust since arriving in Cornwall in 2018 and has completed multiple volunteering roles while studying and working. She joined the Beach Rangers Academy where she worked her way through the Awards available, learning all she could about the local marine life and conservation issues. From there, Laura became a member of the Our Bright Future Youth Forum which has seen her attend Parliament to speak with MPs about marine issues and attend conferences and events where she has collaborated with other projects around the UK.

Laura presented at the 2020 Your Shore Conference, speaking to 150 people working in marine conservation across Cornwall and the South West about her experience and about how important it is to include young people in local conservation projects. Having completed the second year of her degree throughout lockdown, instead of taking a break over the summer Laura became a volunteer Marine Ranger for Polzeath Marine Conservation Group, running socially distanced events from rock pooling to art classes and speaking to hundreds of people about the coastline. Her energy and passion is infectious and she inspires everyone she meets to learn more, care more and do more for their own marine environment.

Ashleigh Carter, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust 
Ashleigh is a Marine Biology graduate and has been a volunteer with the Trust for two years, demonstrating her commitment and passion for protecting marine and coastal species. She initially joined as a volunteer with the Wader Team, a very hardy bunch who brave everything that the North East coast throws at them to conduct bird disturbance surveys through the winter.

Natalie Harris, Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust 
Natalie joined the Trust’s project, Secrets of the Solent, within it’s first year. She had been carrying out her own beach cleaning campaign in her local area and came to the project to learn more about the environment she wanted to protect and spread the knowledge and passion for the Solent. She has a large Instagram following who support the ‘Clean Our Seas’ campaign that she has been organising for a number of years, arranging beach cleans one to two times a week. She has used her Instagram platform to help promote the Trust’s Solent project and she has volunteered on a large number and variety of events.

Paige Marie Bentley

Paige has volunteered with the North Wales Wildlife Trust Living Seas projects for over 2 years. Initially bringing her family with her she was volunteering so often they couldn’t keep up. This was whilst she was busy with her degree at Bangor University and carrying out fieldwork for her final dissertation.

Paige has developed her learning of marine ecology by interacting with the wide range of volunteers working with the project, completing social media posts and preparing for public events throughout the year. All this new knowledge she readily imparts at these events and to other new volunteers.

Paige is also a keen proponent of living a life with less waste. She has been successful, by way of her own actions and conversations, in altering the mind-sets of friends, housemates, fellow volunteers, member of the public, her own family and local work place. Representing the young people of Wales, she attended the International Marine conference in Scotland earlier this year, meeting delegates, taking part in workshops and giving her thoughts as part of the young persons’ view of marine conservation.

Finlay and Jordan


Finlay’s life revolves around the sea, nature and marine life. He is passionate about all animals and encourages his classmates, friends and members of the public to understand marine life and experience the rich range of wildlife that Wester Ross has to offer. Finlay has trained with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation and carries out Shoresearches with his family, is a Scottish Junior Shark Ambassador, carries out beach cleans and is always willing to share his knowledge and passion with the public. He is a great asset for his local community and has an overwhelming amount of knowledge and experience for his age. He puts great dedication into every aspect of what the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas project is doing and is an inspiration to other young people in the area who might want to follow his example.


Jordan has been running a public awareness campaign for stranded marine animals for four years after coming across a stranded porpoise in his hometown of Sutton-on-Sea. When the animal sadly died, Jordan took it upon himself to do something to raise awareness about this issue in his local area and around the country. He also volunteers at the Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve as a customer information officer and has been nominated for a number of Awards. In November 2017, Jordan went to Downing Street to meet with Sir John Randall to discuss environmental issues such as requesting more Marine Protection Zones and reducing plastic litter. He also runs a Facebook page about stranded mammals and blogs for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and the Marine Biology Association.