Volunteer monitoring programs are an excellent way to keep tabs on local watersheds. Individuals from the community offer their time and effort to observe and record conditions in creeks, streams, and more. National studies and research efforts help us form a holistic view of environmental health, but we need local eyes to track progress in our own backyards.

The benefits of a volunteer monitoring program do not only affect eco-action organizations, but also provide joy and satisfaction to the volunteers themselves. Participants in these programs can achieve a lot for their own lives as well as Nature’s:

Participating in a volunteer program means spending time outside in the fresh air and sunshine. This is something that can be surprisingly hard to work into a modern, car-centered lifestyle. We shouldn’t need reasons to enjoy the outdoors, but having an activity planned helps make this actually happen.

Photo by Jessie Marie Dalrymple.

Children and teenagers who participate in volunteer monitoring programs get a firsthand look at what science is like in the real world. Classroom education is important, of course, but when young people participate in tracking water trends, monitoring PH levels and careful observational study, they see what the things they learn in school are like in the real world. That’s an invaluable, eye-opening experience.

Photo of a sustainable community garden by Dee Sewell.

Monitoring program volunteers often tell us that their participation helps them feel more connected to their community. We all intend to effect change at a local level, but many of us just don’t get around to it, for whatever reason. Surveying local watersheds and participating in their preservation is a real-life experience that amounts to actually doing something, not just reading or hearing about it. Many people find that rewarding.

Photo from Jesse Daubert’s Creeklife post.

To read about a volunteer monitoring program in action, check out the “Stream Team” of Lower Muskingum River!

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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