The Volunteer Network

Scotland’s coastline is a staggering 18,840 km long and includes over 800 islands; an enormous area to cover for the SMASS team alone!

We have a great network of trained volunteers that help us with the identification, recovery, storage and transport of stranded animals throughout Scotland. SMASS volunteers are trained to take accurate measurements and biological samples of stranded animals in a safe and responsible manner. Their help is essential and significantly improves the quality of data by maximising information from stranding reports, and collecting samples from cases that are deemed too autolysed or inaccessible to justify a full necropsy.

There are currently more than 200 SMASS volunteers active in Scotland, and our network is still expanding. Anyone living in a coastal area with an interest in marine animals can become a SMASS stranding volunteer by attending a strandings volunteer training course.

How to Become a SMASS Volunteer

SMASS hosts a number of volunteer training courses every year, designed for those interested in helping us collect data and samples from marine animal strandings. The main purpose of the one day training course is to demonstrate how to safely and accurately collect information and samples from stranded individuals, as well as to explain a bit more about the pathology and disease processes in marine animals. The course contains a talk and a practical session including the necropsy of a marine mammal – where  you will be taking samples yourself!

The course is free, but candidates will be assessed during the day and sampling kits and certificates given to those deemed proficient. You do not need to have experience or be an expert on marine animals; our current volunteers come from a range of different backgrounds and full training is provided. However candidates should be resident in Scotland, keen to contribute data to SMASS, and both willing and able to travel to beach locations within their area, at often quite short notice. 

If you would like more information, or are interested in becoming a trained stranding volunteer, please send an email telling us a little bit about yourself, your interest in becoming a volunteer, and the area you are willing to cover to [email protected]

The majority of the training courses will be based at the Garscube Campus at the University of Glasgow. Please note that we can only host a limited amount of courses every year, and we keep a waiting list of people who have expressed an interested in becoming a volunteer for SMASS. If you are interested in joining this list please do get in touch – bearing in mind it may be a while before we can train you. Thank you for your patience and understanding.