Appreciating and Honoring Volunteers

436(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

I feel pretty confident in saying that not one of the volunteers I interviewed for my book ever did anything for any kind of public recognition, attention or reward. Volunteers do what they do for a myriad of reasons but it’s almost never for the recognition, even though they often deserve it. Most, if not all, organizations do recognize and reward or thank their volunteers, often with an annual event or ceremony of some kind. This story from Delaware’s Cape Region, found on, describes on such event. According to the article, “Wetland Warrior Award, now in its seventh year, is presented annually to a citizen, organization, or business that has demonstrated exemplary efforts to benefit Delaware wetlands in the areas of outreach and education, monitoring and assessment, or restoration and protection.” From the sound of it, this years recipients truly deserved the recognition.

Keepers of the Lake

IMG_0203(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

While interviewing volunteers for my book, I came across many who worked as volunteer water quality monitors. They often impressed me with their stories of going to a spot along a river, repeatedly throughout the year, in any weather, to take samples of the water. Water sampling is an essential practice so that scientists can study and examine the water for pollutants, bacteria, pH levels, dissolved oxygen and other factors. This story out of Idaho, from the Bonner County Daily Bee, describes the water monitoring work of volunteers along Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake and one of the deepest in the U.S. Whether it’s in suburban Massachusetts, where I met volunteers, or in rural Idaho, the water monitoring work is very similar and the gathered data is equally important.

More information about the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, the organization behind the water quality monitoring.

Volunteers Helping Trees Worldwide

Up a Tree(Photo by Robert Barossi)

By Robert Barossi

This morning, I came across this quote online: “Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” That got me to thinking about how much volunteers help to care for trees in their local communities.  In Joplin, Missouri, volunteers are helping to water trees in the city, according to this article from   On the other side of the globe, in India, this story from The Times of India about volunteers removing nails that were left in trees when advertisement signs were hung there and them removed. And in Australia, volunteers in this story from Port Macquarie News helped to plant trees during Port Macquarie Landcare’s National Tree Day celebration.

More information about the Joplin initiative is here. And the Port Macquarie Landcare Group has a webiste, linked here.


Fighting Invasives in Canada

Through the Trees(Photo by Robert Barossi)

By Robert Barossi

Invasive species can be more than just a nuisance. They can seriously impact the ecosystem they invade, and those impacts are often, if not usually, negative. They can be detrimental to many other species in the area, including robbing those species of food or other resources. This story focuses on the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, not far from the city of Edmonton. Volunteers have been an essential part of the process which has greatly reduced the amount of creeping thistle in the area. One of the story’s many great aspects is the mention of the “invasive species appetizers” volunteers were served, along with recipes to take home with them. Dandelion pesto, anyone?

The Sanctuary’s website is here and here is a link to Nature Conservancy of Canada, which recently hosted the invasive species removal event for the ninth time.

Helping Barn Owls Return

ID-1006743(Photo by Liz Noffsinger, courtesy of

by Robert Barossi

Volunteers are often an integral part of wildlife protection and preservation programs. These may include anything from banding migratory birds to counting butterflies and listening for the songs of frogs and toads. This story out of Maryland details how volunteers are playing a role in the possible reappearance of the barn owl in the area. Volunteers have been helping to build and monitor barn owl nesting sites. One of those sites recently became the home to the first baby barn owls seen in the area in 17 years, according to the article. The birds were found by a volunteer who checked the nesting box over Memorial Day weekend. With this great work by volunteers and professionals, species which are currently endangered or threatened may be able to thrive once again.

Organizations involved include Calvert County Natural Resources Division and Southern Maryland Audubon Society (their website is currently under construction and not available).

Ocean Friendly Gardens

P1000689(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Recently, I posted an environmental volunteer story about gardens and how volunteers help to maintain these green spaces in public areas, especially suburbs, cities and urban centers. Volunteers are also involved in another kind of garden activity. This story out of San Diego details how volunteers are helping residents create ocean friendly gardens. These gardens, which will be installed with the help of professionals and volunteers, will help to keep urban runoff free of pollution, or at least help to significantly lower the pollution that runoff brings to the ocean.

The organization leading the effort is The Surfrider Foundation, check them out here.

Clearing the Path for Salmon

IMG_2325(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Environmental volunteers work to help ecosystems, natural environments and species of all kinds in many ways. They have an impact on wildlife ranging from insects and amphibians to birds and bears. All of the world, they are doing work that impacts the life that fills our oceans, rivers, streams, lakes and every other body of water. This story from the Auburn Journal details how volunteers are working to help the salmon population. These dedicated citizens are giving their time, effort and energy to help improve more than 30 miles of waterway so that salmon can once again thrive in the area.

The group leading the effort is Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead, please check them out.

Sharing the Beach

394(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Now that we’re firmly in the middle of summer, it’s definitely beach season. And it’s likely that hundreds of beaches along the east and west coasts are jam packed with millions of people, spending the days lounging in the sun and swimming in the surf. One thing to remember, though, is that many other species also utilize the coastline and that ecosystem. Many creatures share the beach with us, being born and spending much or all of their lives there. This great story out of Alabama, from Gulf Coast News Today, talks about how volunteers are keeping the beach safe for sea turtles along the Gulf. Volunteers walk the beach, looking for and protecting places where turtle nests are located. It’s an important job that goes a long way towards protecting the local population of turtles and ensuring that they can reproduce safely.

Check out the website for the organization leading the effort, appropriately called Share the Beach.

Growing Gardens

IMG_1386(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Public green spaces have become an increasingly important consideration in urban and suburban development. Citizens have demanded these kinds of spaces as planners, governments and nonprofit organizations have put more emphasis on their inclusion in any kind of new development. These green spaces often take the form of gardens, from colorful floral arrangements to desert-like xeriscapes. This article from The Pueblo Chieftan, out of Pueblo, Colorado, discusses how it often falls upon volunteers to maintain publicly held gardens. Volunteers are often the ones giving their time, energy and enthusiasm to maintain green spaces, for the benefit of the entire community.

New Kind of Knitting Club


(Photo by Tina Philips, courtesy of

by Robert Barossi

Every story of an environmental volunteer is exciting, seeing what kind of impact everyday people are having on our planet and their local communities. Some stories go beyond just being exciting, they are also amazing and border on mind-blowing. Here’s a story about volunteers in San Rafael who are knitting nests for birds, in an effort to help rehabilitate abandoned bird chicks. Now, maybe this nest knitting thing happens all the time and I just haven’t come across it before. Whether that’s the case or not, it’s pretty fantastic. Especially considering the nests, over a thousand of them, according to the article, are all knitted by volunteers, freely giving of their time and effort.

WildCare is the organization leading the effort, check them out.

There’s also a longer story about the knitters and their efforts here, in the San Francisco Chronicle