We invite you to take a look at these stories from some of our volunteers and get a sense of the experiences volunteering with WEN has to offer.
Al Pak has lived in Missoula since the 5th grade and graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Geography. During an environmental studies class she learned about WEN and went to her first volunteer training in 2008 and taught school groups mostly at the biological station. Al then grew her new found love of aquatic invertebrates, or “bugs” as she calls them, into a job working for Rhithron Associates in Missoula, an aquatic taxonomy and water analysis company working, hands-on, counting and identifying aquatic invertebrates everyday.
How did you first get started volunteering with WEN?
“So, I went to a WEN training and my mind was blown. I had no idea what it was. I had no knowledge of anything related, remotely close to water. It was all new and it was pretty fascinating stuff. And then they pulled out the bugs and they had me!”
Travis Ross moved to Missoula 10 years ago from Alabama and started volunteering with WEN shortly after his move. He works for the Water Quality District in Missoula and enjoys connecting his work and mission there to our community through WEN.
Why did you start volunteering with WEN?
“My work is in water quality and WEN had such awesome connections with kids and we weren’t doing any work with kids at my office so it was really a cool fit to be able to work with kids and teach and learn.[I work for] the Water Quality District. It’s a branch of local government. We’re in the health department and our focus is on local water resources and groundwater and surface water protection. WEN does a lot for local water resource protection in the form of education. One of the biggest things with water resource protection is education and getting kids to understand the values and resources in the watershed and to appreciate them.
We love what we know and getting the kids out to rivers and creeks and doing water testing it’s just a fabulous way to get them to know and appreciate and protect.”
Sam Dexter, a native of Maine, is involved with WEN as the leader of its citizen science initiative, Stream Team, a masters student at the University of Montana in Environmental Studies and an intern at the Montana DNRC, working on stream restoration on state trust land near Polebridge, MT. WEN helps him to connect his technical science background with the importance of education about local watersheds.
What are you getting out of volunteering with WEN?
“There is a strong communication barrier between disciplines. You have field ecologists, conservation biologists who are not able to communicate with lay people. Largely, these people are left out of decision making processes because they are considered technicians.
So what WEN has allowed me to do is learn how to communicate my technical background, within a teaching environment to the local community and in this case WEN volunteers.”
Emily Clark is a past program coordinator for WEN and a graduate Student in Resource Conservation in the School of Forestry at the University of Montana. She is a native of Kansas, currently studying the process of how snowmelt becomes groundwater and the impact of factors like hillslope. WEN gave her a foundation to continue her studies in science.
What has been your favorite volunteer experience?
“…The amazing part about WEN is that they use all disciplines to tie in the importance of water. They use nature journaling and sketching, poetry and things to connect people to rivers. And then they’re more likely, even if they don’t care about water science, they’re more likely to perk up and listen to you about it.”