Shae Wiedermann is studying for a Masters in Ecology, Culture and Society at Goldsmiths College, London. She volunteered with the Big City Butterflies project and tells us about her time with the team... 

Earlier this year I volunteered for Butterfly Conservation as part of a placement for my MA at Goldsmiths University. I volunteered primarily with the Big City Butterflies project, working alongside Ele the Engagement Officer.

Shae helping to water in the new plants

Ele was doing a series of school workshops in London, where she delivered hands on sessions to primary schools which included planting butterfly/moth food and nectar plants in their schoolyard. I helped Ele to deliver some plants and compost to the schools and got everything ready for the planting activities. I also got to teach the children how to plant and water the garden. During the workshops I learned a lot about the UK butterfly and moth species, and it was wonderful to see Ele engaging the children and getting them excited about butterflies. She taught the kids (and teachers) much about the importance of butterflies and moths to the ecosystem, and encouraged a greater receptivity to and appreciation of moths.

Although Ele used a similar format for all the workshops, each visit offered something different. At one of the schools a young girl found a caterpillar in the garden only a few minutes after we had started planting. Excited by this, Ele took some time away from the planting to gather the rest of the kids around and identify the moth species. She then discussed the importance of biological recording (in a way that was accessible for the young kids), effectively adding a vibrant anecdote to her presentation by using this caterpillar as an example. Although it meant Ele and I stayed back a bit to finish the planting, it was worth it to engage the children’s interest a little more. Watching Ele adapt in this way to each school really added some colour to her work and the work of the entire organisation.

I’ve always been very passionate about the environment, and hope to work in conservation soon. I was trying to find a placement in anything to do with conservation, and didn’t necessarily have a strong affection for Lepidoptera beforehand. Working alongside the Big City Butterflies team taught me a lot about butterflies and moths, and I am so much more attuned and concerned for them now. Everyone I interacted with and chatted to at Butterfly Conservation were so friendly and helpful, it really is a wonderful environment to be in. Since starting the placement I have gone on to do a course run partly by BC, and I feel as though I have more opportunities and connections since my initial placement. I would highly recommend volunteering to anyone looking to work in or study conservation, or just those who want to spend their summer doing something fun and ecological.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities with our Big City Butterflies project, contact Kate Merry and sign up for our e-newsletter: Big City Butterflies e-news | Butterfly Conservation ( You can also search for volunteer opportunities across the UK using our search function: Volunteer opportunities | Butterfly Conservation (