Volunteer Opportunities

©2015 Marc Opperman
©2015 Marc Opperman. Roadrunner, Big Bend National Park

A question came in from one of the new trainees in the Class of 2015 about whether some work they would do could count toward their 2015 requirements. I didn’t actually know offhand. (I often don’t know the answer to a lot of good questions, but fortunately I’m surrounded by a lot of smart advisors). The two organizations in question were not ones I’d really considered before – Wildlife Rescue, Inc., and the feral cat clinic at the Humane Society. While Wildlife Rescue seemed an obvious green light, the Humane Society wasn’t immediately obvious.

I thought I’d excerpt some of the emails that ensued here because they illustrate both the ways CAMN works, and the reasoning behind what we do. I posed the questions to our Volunteer Opportunities Coordinator, Vernon Berger. He, in turn, brought Bill Dodd, our Advanced Training Coordinator, into the loop.

I wrote this email to them by way of extemporaneous musing:

1) Wildlife rescue? I suppose it depends on what she does. But I would think maybe. Rehabbing wild animals both is a possible ecological service – depending on species (squirrels and white-wing doves, maybe not) – and a chance to interact with the public about the particular roles of the animals involved, the consequences of wildland-urban interface, etc.
2) Feral cat clinic? Again, depends on what she does. But part of the mission of those sorts of clinics is to trap, spay and release. Definitely a benefit to keep the domestic cat as an Invasive and destructive species in check. I see that as not very different than other invasive species removal.

Bill Dodd’s response was a little more researched and thoughtful than mine, and sums up the basis for a good decision:

1) I would go even further on the Wildlife Rescue activity and say ‘yes’ on that one. Here is their mission statement:

Wildlife Rescue, Inc. serves the citizens and wildlife of Central Texas by providing direct assistance to the public concerning questions, problems, and conflicts with native wild animals.  Wildlife Rescue, Inc. accomplishes that mission by:
  1. Training volunteers to operate a telephone hotline in order to assist with wildlife inquiries from the public.
  2. Supporting qualified rehabilitators to provide care to orphaned and injured wild animals until they can be returned to their native environment.
  3. Providing educational programs designed to eliminate or mitigate conflicts between humans and wild animals.

I think all of those activities are in line with our TMN mission.

I also googled some and found several other TMN chapters that have Wildlife Rescue listed as approved volunteer activities. (That doesn’t mean we have to, of course. But at least it shows some other chapters have considered this and approved it.) One chapter even had some specific approved activities listed:
2) My thoughts are exactly as Marc’s on the feral cat clinic. Reducing feral cat population (or controlling the growth of the feral cat population) is certainly a benefit to our native songbirds and herps.

Based on the consensus here, we pretty much gave the trainee the go-ahead to count the hours – provided the two organizations didn’t count the hours as exclusive to their grants… the old “double-dipping” rule.

In a lot of cases, the obvious mission of a particular organization may not seemingly dovetail with that of a Master Naturalist. But digging a little deeper – and possibly doing some research, as Bill did with Wildlife Rescue, Inc., into what other chapters do and what the organization’s mission is – yields a good fit.

In the case of the Humane Society, their stated mission almost certainly does not, on the whole, fit with that of the Texas Master Naturalist. However, the way this trainee would like to volunteer her time is a direct benefit to Central Texas wildlife. Feral cats can be an incredible hindrance to the health of native species.

And, certainly, in both cases, she has the opportunity to be an advocate for Central Texas wildlife, to interpret the values of careful management practices, to highlight human impact… to use her knowledge to explain and interpret that place where developed society meets our natural surroundings, the wildland-urban-interface (or WUI), and how humans contribute to the health or dysfunction of an ecosystem.

It was a rather simple email containing a good question, one that prompted a lot of behind-the-scenes head scratching and researching. In short, it was the perfect question to illuminate what we do and move the organization forward just a bit.