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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Volunteers Provide Much Needed Support to the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office

Region 3, December 18, 2013
Members of Alpena FWCO’s Friends Group – Friends of the Lake Huron Watershed, assist during an assessment of lake trout spawn activity on artificial reefs on Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay.
Members of Alpena FWCO’s Friends Group – Friends of the Lake Huron Watershed, assist during an assessment of lake trout spawn activity on artificial reefs on Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay. - Photo Credit: n/a
Friends of the Lake Huron Watershed member, Gerry Kraft, assists the Alpena Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office at an outreach event by educating the public about aquatic invaders.
Friends of the Lake Huron Watershed member, Gerry Kraft, assists the Alpena Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office at an outreach event by educating the public about aquatic invaders. - Photo Credit: n/a
A volunteer from Alpena FWCO’s substation in Waterford shows off the “fruits of her labor” during a juvenile lake sturgeon assessment on the Huron-Erie Corridor.
A volunteer from Alpena FWCO’s substation in Waterford shows off the “fruits of her labor” during a juvenile lake sturgeon assessment on the Huron-Erie Corridor. - Photo Credit: n/a
Fisheries work peaks the interest of a young volunteer as he proudly displays a beautiful walleye, bycatch from a juvenile lake sturgeon assessment on the Huron-Erie Corridor.
Fisheries work peaks the interest of a young volunteer as he proudly displays a beautiful walleye, bycatch from a juvenile lake sturgeon assessment on the Huron-Erie Corridor. - Photo Credit: n/a

Volunteers played a key role in helping the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) accomplish mission critical field work throughout the past year. While in the field, volunteers routinely functioned as a member of the crew and were able to obtain insight into Alpena FWCO’s work as it relates to natural resource conservation, management, and environmental education. Without the help of these individuals, staff from Alpena FWCO would not have been able to complete field work as efficiently, or in some cases it would not have been completed at all.

In tight fiscal times conducting work short staffed is a commonality and assistance from volunteers can be an essential part of completing the job, especially during the busy field season. Throughout the past fiscal year 33 volunteers contributed 562 hours of their time. Their time was spent assisting staff in field operations and outreach activities, which saved the Alpena FWCO approximately $11,594 (Independent Sector's Value of Volunteer Time, 2013).

Many of the volunteers who supported the office are members of Alpena FWCO’s Friends Group – Friends of the Lake Huron Watershed. Friends Group members helped the office by participating in a variety of projects, mainly aquatic invasive species (AIS) education and assisting in local field activities.

“Volunteers from within and outside of our Friends Group have been valuable resources to the AIS surveillance program on northern Lake Huron. The volunteers are eager to assist with field activities, allowing them to get out on the water or in the field with biologists. They are a pleasure to work with and it is a win-win situation all around” said fish biologist, Anjanette Bowen, who leads the AIS Program for the office.

 

Given the variety and complexity of the work conducted by Alpena FWCO staff, utilizing volunteers without any training or experience can be challenging. Fish biologist Justin Chiotti, stationed at Alpena FWCOs substation in Waterford, has been fortunate enough to have reoccurring volunteers throughout the field season. Many of these volunteers assisted the Waterford staff in conducting lake sturgeon assessments on the Huron-Erie Corridor. Justin said, “They become part of the crew and we don't even need to tell them what to do anymore, they just do it. We are gaining another staff member on the boat, and they are gaining valuable experience in the field.”

The Treaty Fisheries Unit has utilized Friends Group members and interested community members for a variety of activities such as conducting gill net surveys, assisting in artificial reef assessments, cleaning gear, and processing fish for donation to the needy. “Volunteers fill an important role in fulfilling the station’s goals by making themselves available when staff is short,” explained Fish Biologist Adam Kowalski.

Volunteers are valuable assets to the Alpena FWCO, without their assistance it would be difficult to maintain the current work load. Alpena FWCO staff is grateful for the support received from volunteers and look forward to building the volunteer program to accomplish even more in the future.

Independent Sector's Value of Volunteer Time. (2013). Retrieved from http://independentsector.org/volunteer_time?s=volunteer%20time#sthash.H1TqCbhT.Soz9p6GZ.dpbs

Contact Info: Joseph Gerbyshak, 989-356-5102 ext. 1015, joseph_gerbyshak@fws.gov