Como Park Zoo and Conservatory does a lot for conservation efforts including a program called Conservation Champions. Staff submit projects and if selected, are funded by Como Friends. I work at Como and love hearing about the amazing experiences staff have had doing conservation work around the world. Conservation Champions was open for me to apply for as well, but I was having trouble finding a project. I don’t have a degree in biology or take care of giraffes or have fieldwork experience. I still wanted to get my hands dirty in the field and contribute to conservation efforts. I searched far and wide for programs that would fit for someone with no background or previous experience. I am so excited that I found the AIS Detectors program through the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center.
Como Friends funded my program fees and time as an AIS Detector so that I could learn from the experience and share it with others. I have completed 7.5 hours of online training, 8 hours of in-person training, 29.5 hours of volunteer work, and six blog posts. I have surveyed people, dissected fish, sampled plants at lakes, chatted with people about invasive species, and learned so much about Minnesota’s water bodies. Even though I started out feeling like I didn’t know enough or have enough experience to contribute to conservation efforts, this program taught me what I needed to know and gave me opportunities to apply it in the field. I may have finished my minimum number of volunteer hours for the year, but I’m excited to keep going this year and for years to come!
Through my volunteer hours, the thing that has stuck with me the most is the feeling of making a direct impact. I’m spending time and energy on projects and efforts that are so much more successful because of volunteers like me. There’s so much water in Minnesota to survey for invasive species and only 10 aquatic invasive species specialists in the state! There’s so many ongoing research projects about aquatic invasive species that take hours and hours of groundwork and only so much funding for it. The people that I worked with were just so thankful every time that I volunteered on a project. MAISRC does a calculation for the impact of your service and my time so far has totaled $830.43!
There’s so many ways to contribute to conservation efforts depending on what makes sense for you. Volunteering as an AIS Detector might sound right up your alley! All the information you need is on their website and in my other blogs. Maybe volunteering isn’t the right fit for you, but you want to support projects like mine. Five or ten dollars might not sound like it would have much impact but together, these small donations fund larger and more impactful projects! Donate here to support Como Friends’ Conservation Champions and other Como programs.
I’ll leave you with pictures of some of my favorite moments!
Learning Experiences Specialist