Washington Service Corps members Andrew & Ariana serving with Clark County Public Utilities Department Stream Team

It was another long February day, planting trees near the East Fork Lewis River in rural Clark County, Washington. Snowflakes fell on the freshly turned soil but didn’t stick around. Just before my digging tool thudded into the soggy earth, I saw a leaf move. A green leaf on the ground, at this time of year? I crouched for a closer look and spotted a little chorus frog hiding under the moss, though it stood so still it took me a minute to make out the shape. As I pulled out the camera and took pictures from various angles it didn’t move a muscle.

A frog found on a Washington Service Corps project site
I felt sorry for disturbing the frog, which was clearly too cold to hop away. But by planting a black cottonwood tree in the hole I finally finished digging, I knew I was giving the frog a future with moist shade and a more diverse insect community. Native trees and flowers are the basis for healthy populations of native insects, which are then available to feed the birds, frogs, and fish that live here. I won’t get to see the whole process start-to-finish during my AmeriCorps term, but I can see enough from past years’ projects to understand the causes and effects. When we get volunteers out there planting trees, I love helping them imagine these trees decades into the future.

As a member of StreamTeam at Clark Public Utilities in Vancouver, I am in charge of our on-site native plant nursery that supplies trees to planting sites all over the county. I’ve been learning about all aspects of transforming a restoration site from a weedy field into a functioning ecosystem. Every day brings something new! Whether that’s a new skill I get to practice or a brief encounter with a shy frog, I am constantly reminded of why I chose to serve in AmeriCorps – making the Northwest a better habitat for wild creatures, and helping volunteers appreciate the complex interactions between the species that live all around us.