Growing up by the seaside, Charlotte Bray has always felt most at home near the water.
And as a wildlife lover, she has spent a significant part of her life volunteering to protect marine life, wildlife and the environment.
After visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick seven years ago, Charlotte began volunteering with its SOS Puffin programme, an initiative to cut down invasive tree mallow from the puffin burrows on the Firth of Forth islands.
Charlotte said: “As part of the prgramme I get to go on a boat and get dropped off on an island like something out of the Famous Five. I cut down tree mallow all day surrounded by the sounds of sea and birds, chat to interesting people and leave with a feeling of pleasant tiredness and achievement.
“A real bonus is seeing the physical results: a pile of dead plants, which would otherwise have stopped the puffins getting to their burrows to breed. They aren’t vocal in their appreciation, but I’m sure they are grateful. Plus, we know it is working as the breeding numbers are increasing.”
As a fundraising manager, Charlotte has dedicated not only her spare time, but also her career to worthy causes of all shapes and sizes. A few months ago, these two worlds collided when an opportunity to turn her hobby into her job arose at the Scottish Seabird Centre.
She said: “When a job came up at the centre, it seemed a natural fit for me. As fundraising manager, one part of my job is to help raise money for a proposed capital appeal, which is my specialist area. The second part is to raise money for the centre’s wildlife conservation and education work.
“Conservation, especially marine conservation, is a cause that is close to my heart. I grew up by the seaside, still live near it and feel a bit nervous if I can’t see something blue and sloshy in the corner of my vision.”
But Charlotte says taking on the role left her worried her volunteering work might suffer.
She said: “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to separate SOS Puffin from my day-to-day work. But actually this has been easier than expected as the former involves being covered in mud and wearing waterproofs. If I smell like a gull, I know I’m volunteering.
“I love volunteering and fundraising as I care deeply about the work we do and being a volunteer gives me a personal perspective so I can talk to supporters, as a supporter.
“Plus, when times are hard, there are so many positives. The people I work with are all dedicated to the same cause, the place where I work is stunning, and there are puffins.
When you’ve had a stressful day, there is nothing more cheery than watching them waddling along on the live cameras. Working to protect what I love gives me a genuine sense of job satisfaction.”