Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Mississippi River Gorge Stewards Leadership Team

Volunteers have been working in the gorge for several years now, and while there are always some new faces at events, we definitely had a group of "regulars". We started thinking about how to put the knowledge, dedication, and experience of these seasoned volunteers to the best use in the gorge, as well as how to offer them greater opportunities for learning, greater responsibility, and a richer volunteer experience. With funding from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, the Gorge Stewards Leadership Team was formed!

Members of the Gorge Leadership Team were asked to commit to volunteering at least 25 hours in the gorge this year, including attending a 2-hour indoor and 3-hour outdoor training, and participating in at least 4 of the 6 team outings. The rest of the hours can be completed a variety of ways, such as participating in and assisting with public events in the gorge, tabling, speaking, or otherwise assisting with outreach. The team outings combine training with restoration work, and are directed by ecologist Carolyn Carr. The subjects Carolyn chooses vary, but there is an underlying focus on phenology and how things progress and change over the growing season. Team members are also helping to monitor different sections of the 36th and West River Parkway site, and contributing to written and photographic documentation of species and conditions present.

From the very first training session and at every team event since, this group has proven to be quite the inquisitive bunch! Full of great questions, and noticing even the tiniest bugs or weird bumps on plant leaves. One of the most exciting things about the team for me has been watching the interactions and overhearing tidbits of conversations, where folks are sharing the different knowledge, skills and experiences that they each bring to the team, and learning from each other as well as from Carolyn.

This is the first year for this exciting project, so we are learning as we go and tweaking little bits here and there. We have accomplished quite a bit so far this season, and hope to continue the project in years to come. Thank you to all of the Gorge Leadership Team members for all your hard work and dedication to the river, for keeping us on our toes, and for being such an inspiring group of people to work with!

Photos courtesy of Hillary Oppmann

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