Sharing the Experience

Submitted by Collin Adkins, U.S. Fish & Wildlife – Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge

It is always a joyful experience to share my AmeriCorps experienc-adkinsce with friends, family, and members of the public who take an interest. It is even more exciting getting to share that experience in a day or more of service with fellow AmeriCorps members serving 300 miles away. Few can truly share the spoils of a day of volunteering quite like the brothers and sisters wearing the “A.” Winter in the environmental stewardship sector is often a very quiet time spent indoors preparing for the months ahead; quite different from the fast-paced action of the summer field-work season. With Spring knocking on the door, it was the perfect occasion to invite fellow U.S. Fish and Wildlife AmeriCorps members out to Eastern Washington to experience what service is like across disciplines, regions, and ecosystems.

Having met at our annual SERVES conference, Kaylee, Michelle, and I spoke at length about visiting each other’s sites and doing some volunteering for one another. Spring at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is a great spectacle as waterfowl migrate back north and congregate in the wetlands. My fellow AmeriCorps members and I spent the first of our two days in the field recording migration data for the various wetlands of the refuge. Kaylee and Michelle had not had much experience identifying waterfowl so I was elated at having the chance to share my “bird-nerdiness” with them. In one lake we saw over 500 Tundra Swans. In another we observed 210 Northern Pintails and 150 American Coots further along. “These large flocks of waterfowl tell us that we are near the peak of migration,” I told them. “Climate change could have a big impact on the availability of food during this challenging time for these birds.”

adkins-story-picThe following day we returned to the field, this time to train them on a technique for locating wildlife fixed with radio collars called Telemetry. Kaylee and Michelle use radio tracking in their service as well, but were excited to learn some new skills. Later that afternoon we visited yet another fellow AmeriCorps member also serving at Turnbull NWR as she delivered an education lesson to a class of first graders. “That was great!” they remarked afterwards. “We picked up a lot of great techniques and tips to use in our lessons.” Now the plan is for me to make the journey to the west side and learn from them.

I hope that before this year is over, I will have many more opportunities to share my experience as well as learn from the experiences of my peers during this pivotal time. I like to tell people all the time what it is I do for my AmeriCorps service. The reaction I usually receive is the same reaction my fellow AmeriCorps members gave me, “You get to do this every day?!” they ask. My reply varies but I am always sporting a big grin, “Yes. Every day I am increasingly in awe with nature, and on the best of days, I am able to share a piece of that with my volunteers, friends and family.”

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