Volunteers Help Our Friends in the Wild

IMG_2141(Photo by Robert Barossi)

While many of the stories posted thus far have dealt with volunteers working to preserve rivers, parks and natural landscapes, volunteers also work to help out friends in the animal kingdom. From banding birds to help track migrations to assisting in wildlife rehabilitation, environmental volunteers are working tirelessly for many non-human species every day. Here are a just a few recent examples:

In South Texas, the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge recently won an award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The 2013 Southwest Region Friends of the Year Award was given in recognition of the Friends’ conservation efforts, especially those efforts aimed at protecting the ocelot, an endangered species of wild cat.

Far to the north, in Western Pennsylvania, volunteers are helping out another type of animal species: frogs. Volunteers are currently being trained to listen for and identify frog calls from the area’s thirteen species of native frogs. This is part of a nationwide citizen science effort aimed at collecting data for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and their FrogWatch USA program. Collected data will help agencies to monitor amphibian populations, which can provide important data related to an area’s ecological and environmental health.

While those volunteers were listening for frog calls, volunteers in San Francisco have been counting an even smaller species, monarch butterflies. Monarch populations have been decreasing for a number of years but butterfly counts on the west coast, often performed by volunteers, recently indicated a slight reversal in the trend as populations actually increased slightly. As this article from Bay Nature describes, volunteers in San Fransicso and across the state are essential in making events like the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count a success year after year.

Cleaning Up Down Under

Through the Trees


(Photo by Robert Barossi)

Coming up on Sunday, March 2nd is this year’s Cklean Up Australia Day, an event across Australia where, in 2013, hundreds of thousands of volunteers cleaned up trash at thousands of sites nationwide. Volunteers are essential to these kinds of massive efforts. Just one example of a single cleanup happening in the Wolgan Valley is this article from the Lithgow Mercury. The story details efforts led by the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa to clean up the surrounding area. The resort claims on its website to be “Australia’s most environmentally responsible tourist destination.” This is just one example of how they back that up and, in doing so, get local volunteers involved.

Clean Up Australia Day’s official website can be found here.

Following the Parade

Rocks in Still Water(Photo by Robert Barossi)

Let’s face it, parades, while they are lots of fun, are often not environmentally friendly. Lots of trash and debris from all of those spectators ends up strewn everywhere, littering the streets and sidewalks. Much of it does get picked up and finds its way to landfills. Some of it takes the next opportunity to flow into storm drains. And some of it just sits there for a very long time. This year, during Mardi Gras in  Mobile, Alabama, volunteers will be helping to prevent the ecologically-unfriendly consequences of the city’s parades. This post from AL.com details how eco-volunteers will be cleaning up the streets during upcoming Mardi Gras parades. The volunteers will be following the parade with eco-carts, collecting recycling and litter along the way. These efforts will go a long way towards making Mardi Gras a lot greener in Mobile.

Some of the organizations connected with this effort include:

Downtown Mobile Alliance – www.downtownmobile.org

Alabama Coastal Foundation – www.joinACF.org

Cleaning Rivers Everywhere

Winter Stream(Photo by Robert Barossi)

When it comes to environmental volunteers, bodies of water are often where the energy and efforts are focused. Rivers, lakes, streams, ponds and wetlands frequently receive the attention of volunteers, often working for a local environmental organization. From taking water quality samples to pulling piles of trash out of the water, there are a number of important tasks performed by dedicated volunteers.

According to the Napa Valley Register, volunteers have been an  important part of cleanup efforts along the Napa River, including removing 700 pounds of trash and debris. More than a ton of trash was taken from the Little Harpeth River, according to a similar article in The Tennessean. The event, which included a number of concerned groups in the area, featured 86 volunteers who cleaned up twenty-two miles of the river’s bank, eleven miles on each side. There may have been fewer volunteers, but a cleanup effort along the San Pedro River, mentioned in the Sierra Vista herald, was no less significant. And, of course, these efforts take place all over the world, as evidenced in this article from the Lancashire Evening Post, detailing a cleanup of River Ribble in Northern England.

Some of the environmental organizations involved in the above cleanups include:

Friends of the San Pedro River – www.sanpedroriver.org/fsprhome.shtml

Preston Society – www.prestonsociety.org.uk

Ribble Rivers Trust – www.ribbletrust.org.uk

Urban Environmental Volunteers

Through the Trees(Photo by Robert Barossi)

It can be argued that the most important place to preserve green spaces is in cities and urban areas. As people move into these heavily populated and tightly developed places, they can lose touch with nature, losing that all-important connection with the natural world. In many cities, there are small green spaces dotting the urban landscape. Parks and squares and patches of green earth, all of which need care and love from volunteers, so that every city dweller can enjoy them. This recent article from New York Daily News discusses one such effort. Volunteer docents are now offering guided walking tours of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Every Sunday, the volunteers lead groups through the park, discussing the ecology as well as the park’s history and significance. Education is an important element of these tours, especially when it comes to young schoolchildren. These kinds of efforts are essential to keeping our connection with nature, especially the small bits of nature found in cities, and no doubt are happening in urban areas across the country.

The volunteer tours are coordinated by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. Check out their website here.