As busy high school students, we are trying to do it all–school work, sports, working, volunteering, chores, while trying to have a little fun along the way. We have lots of demands on our time, yet most of us choose to volunteer in some way. We all have choices where we spend our volunteer efforts. I choose to spend my volunteer time outdoors with my local watershed.
Michigan has 86 major watersheds and are simply an area of land where all of the precipitation flows to a small stream which then flows downslope into a bigger stream or river. A network of streams and rivers that flows to a larger river system will eventually end up in one of the Great Lakes. So, what runs off the land of the area surrounding a watershed eventually ends up in the Great Lakes. Taking care of our local watersheds not only helps to protect our local water supply, but helps to keep our Great Lakes clean too. Here is a list of Michigan’s major watersheds: Michigan Watersheds
Volunteering at my local watershed has been a great experience. Not only is it close to my house, but I have met a wide range of people from those with PhD’s in environmental science and chemistry to others who just love the outdoors and want to help to protect and restore the environment. Because we gather data on the river, I get to apply what I am learning in my science classes about the scientific method to real life–STEM education in action–#makingmyscienceteachersproud!
Volunteering at the watershed can be interesting and exciting. For example, twice a year we take samples of stream-beds looking for macro invertebrate organisms. Finding and counting these organisms helps us understand the health of the streams–the more organisms per sampling–the healthier the stream. If you ever want to see a bunch of watershed staff get excited, trying finding a new organism that hasn’t been seen in our local rivers in a while. The following weekend, parents and kids come and help us identify and count the organisms–people love doing this!
My local watershed has about 10 different activities where they need volunteers and they provide excellent training. Last summer, I volunteered conducting surveys with people fishing along the rivers asking them about their knowledge of best fishing practices during spawning season. Our local watershed is hopeful to grow the fish population in our local streams to balance our ecosystem, so practicing catch and release during spawning times is critical to this effort. It was great to speak with people fishing, learn about their experiences and it was nice to hear how much they thought our local rivers have improved.
We all have choices in how we spend our time. My suggestion is to volunteer for the environment; it gets you outdoors and helps to protect our drinking water as well as preserves and restores our natural surroundings. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also has several other great opportunities for kids and teens to volunteer. DNR -How I Can Help. I strongly suggest you spend your volunteer time outdoors because you never know what you will find or see!
Trip Apley – YCC member