How Practical Conservation Volunteering Works
All the standard ways of making your lifestyle greener, such as walking more and driving less, are an essential part of helping the environment, but you don’t usually see their effects, at least not straight away. Sustainable living isn’t the only way to help save the environment though. Practical conservation volunteering in your area helps save local wildlife, which in Ohio includes a large number of endangered species, and you can often see the effect almost immediately with a visibly improved habitat.
1. Register With a Local Group
Conservation groups often depend greatly on the help of volunteers. In Ohio, two of the major organizations that need volunteers and provide any necessary training include the Nature Conservancy, which recruits volunteers for litter cleanups, removal of invasive vegetation, seed collection and trail maintenance projects, and Ohio Earth Team Volunteer Project, run by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Ohio Environment Council also needs volunteers for less strenuous activities including office work.
Smaller conservation groups are also often delighted to have volunteers, although it helps if you already have some experience, as they may not run volunteer programs.
Feel free to ask the volunteer coordinator questions about level of physical fitness required, what you need to bring with you, age restrictions (often, volunteers need to be over 12, 14 or older, depending on the activity), and any training provided.
2. Participate in Individual Projects
Some projects, especially data collection, need individual volunteers. In order to implement conservation programs, it is necessary to know the numbers and distribution of endangered species. Conservationists also monitor the spread of invasive species.
Among the ongoing projects in Ohio is the Frog and Toad Calling Survey and the Salamander Monitoring Program, both organized by Ohio Amphibians. After registering for a project, you collect information in an area you find easily accessible.
Only basic equipment is necessary for the Frog and Toad Calling Survey; however, if you wish to participate in the Salamander Monitoring Program, you’ll need some further supplies, including waders, a net and a thermometer. You don’t necessarily need experience for such projects but you do need to follow the instructions exactly for the information gathered to be of any use. Always contact the survey coordinator before starting work.
Also required are reports of the main invasive species in Ohio, which include sea lampreys and zebra mussels. The first step is to make a note of the species, exact location and anything else you think is relevant, such as number of individuals or habitat conditions. The US Geological Survey has a simple form to fill out. Somebody will contact you if they require more details.
3. Organize Your Own Projects
While existing conservation projects are a good way to get started, and meet like-minded people, you could also organize your own events. Trash collection is one of the simplest to arrange, has an immediate visual effect and could save the lives of local animals. If you have a garden or other property, the creation of a miniature nature reserve such as a wildlife pond, butterfly garden with native plants, or small wooded area with nest boxes replaces some of the habitat lost to development.
Posted by Mark Contorno