JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) wants to extend a big thank you to its volunteers for another year of hard work and dedication supporting conservation initiatives and helping to educate others about Missouri’s fish, forest and wildlife resources.
“We so appreciate and value our volunteers,” said MDC Volunteer and Interpretive Program Coordinator Syd Hime. “These individuals are assets to the department as they connect with the public and help to educate them about Missouri’s natural resources.”
More than 1,600 volunteers donate their time and energy to MDC through the Missouri Master Naturalist program, shooting ranges, nature centers, interpretive sites, Hunter Education programs, and through fishing instruction. Nearly 3,000 people volunteer as part of the Missouri Forestkeepers Network, which is a forest-health monitoring program that educates the public about tree-care and helps monitor forest health. Additionally, nearly 30,000 people volunteer their time helping to improve Missouri’s streams through the Stream Team program.
During 2019, volunteers logged more than 250,000 hours in outreach efforts, citizen science, program support, and more.
The current public health crisis has slowed current volunteer duties and opportunities, but some nature centers have gotten creative in connecting with their volunteers.
“Last week, Runge Nature Center held a drive-thru social for our volunteers as a way to keep them engaged and to let them know the staff misses them,” explained Runge Nature Center Assistant Manager Becky Matney. “We usually have in-person monthly meetings with volunteers to provide updates on programs and events, but we haven’t had the chance to meet due to COVID-19. The drive-thru social was a way to lift their spirits, enjoy ice cream, and interact with staff and volunteers while also staying safe.”
Staff at the Cape Girardeau Nature Center took a similar approach – only instead, nature center staff made the trek to volunteers’ front lawns to safely say hello and check-in from a distance.
Though MDC isn’t recruiting new volunteers at the moment, there are ways to continue to support and connect with the outdoors, such as through citizen science. The public can help conservation efforts by downloading mobile apps such as iNaturalist or eBird and sharing their observations. These nature observations can be done as a solo endeavor out on a trail or with family in the backyard.
“Though we’re currently limited in our recruitment and engagement with our volunteers, citizen science is a great way to donate your time to contribute to conservation efforts,” explained Hime. “We look forward to welcoming back our volunteers and to having more opportunities on the horizon.”
For more information on citizen science or on activities you can do from your home, backyard, or neighborhood, visit https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Z7D.
To find out more on the Missouri Stream Team program, visit http://www.mostreamteam.org/.