Along with protecting and restoring nature, here at TTLT we also nurture nature and nurture relationships with nature. Read about the launch of our revamped Volunteer Program, the success of a hybrid Biodiversity Boss program, and our journey into the world of webinars.
Revamped Volunteer Program
Volunteers are at the heart of our success in protecting nature forever in our local communities. As Thames Talbot Land Trust (TTLT) grows, so does our need for volunteers to help us restore and steward these natural areas, as well as promote, raise funds, write for, and contribute to administrative duties on behalf of TTLT.
Through our revamped Volunteer Program, volunteers will have the opportunity to take on greater responsibility as time goes on if they so wish. So far, we have launched the revamped Stewardship Volunteer Program, but will also be launching similar programs for Office and Outreach opportunities.
Under the Stewardship Volunteer Program, general training is provided several times during the year to old and new volunteers that wish to become Stewardship volunteers or would like a refresher course. Specific training opportunities will be provided 1-2 times throughout the year for those interested in becoming a Mentor, Location Lead, or a Co-Lead in that order.
So far, we’ve held a virtual Volunteer Orientation, an Abolish the Olive event at Joany’s Woods and Wardsville Woods, a Buckthorn Bust at Meadowlily Nature Preserve, seed collection at Wardsville Woods, as well as several Auzins Community Wildflower Garden events at Hawk Cliff Woods. It was great to see so many motivated people come out to our stewardship events. Through these nine events, we have had 76 volunteers contribute to 200 volunteer hours, removing large patches of invasive species, collecting rare tall grass prairie seeds for our restorations, and creating a native plant garden for visitors to collect seeds to start their own gardens. This is only the beginning! We have lots of volunteer opportunities to come and all are welcome.
The Biodiversity Boss program was created with the intention of giving young adults and youth, the access to gain academic and hands-on skills in the environmental sector. This free program provides the opportunity to learn skills that are consistently used by the expert TTLT staff. We have hosted four Biodiversity Boss events, and each year we have seen an increase in participation. Unfortunately, we had to limit participants this past fall due to COVID-19, just when the program was gaining more interest. Even with the restrictions, we managed to have our highest turnout of participants this year with 21 people joining our webinars and 17 in-person attendees for the field day. The Biodiversity Boss program can give a person a peak into the environmental sector and see if they are inspired to pursue it.
Normally, the entire program would be fit into two action-packed days, but with COVID-19 some alterations had to be made. This year, we converted the classroom portions to online webinars and had one day of hands-on learning. Some of the activities included tree identification, how invasive species affect our ecosystems and how to manage them, as well as Ecological Land Classification, which involves defining a landscape based on the soil composition and vegetation for its current state and to anticipate how it will develop in the future.
“It was great to see the enthusiasm from all of our participants this year,” Colin, the program coordinator exclaimed. “Even on a rainy day, everyone showed a passion for learning these conservation skills, whether it was to apply them to their budding career or just to learn about the trees in their backyard.” We hope to see this program grow and continue to give people with a passion for the environment a chance to learn these important conservation skills.
With COVID-19, we had to get create with how we provided our usual in-person workshops and outreach events. Little did we know that the transition into virtual outreach would be just what TTLT needed.
Our very first webinar was hosted on April 28, 2020 by Rebecca Launchbury. Native plants being quite the hot topic, it was no surprise that Native Plant Gardening 101 maxed out the available RSVP spots and resulted in 257 participants watching live. We were shocked, overwhelmed, and excited that the beginning of this new chapter had started out bigger than we ever imagined. For the next month, we continued to see high numbers of participants for Passport to Nature: Birding for Beginners, Herp Helpers, and Native Plant Gardening for Wildlife webinars. Not only that, but we also started to see increases in our social media followers and likes.
As we followed along with the changing situation of restrictions and guidelines, we decided to focus our efforts on a completely virtual approach until we could once again hold in-person events and see all of your lovely faces. Six Passport to Nature events went virtual with the exception of Knitting in Nature (at that time, COVID-19 cases were falling and restrictions had been significantly decreased) where, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place, we were able to come together. Other webinars have covered various topics, such as bats, racism in the outdoors, Biodiversity Boss programming, and volunteer orientation. In total, we’ve managed 16 webinars and over 1100 participants!
It goes without saying that these webinars were a success because you, are beloved supporters, were willing to participate, even under the cloud of virtual fatigue. We hope that we will be able to continue to provide exciting and interesting content until we can one day meet with you again in-person.
Photos by TTLT Staff