The question most asked on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks may be: “What’s that?”
Whether the subject is an odd-looking plant along the trail or a bird flying high overhead, this question is answered many times a day on wilderness programs led by Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers. While the more than 350 volunteers come from a variety of professional backgrounds, they receive technical naturalist and stewardship training that allows them to easily and enthusiastically answer just about any nature question thrown their way.
Two of the Conservancy’s founding volunteers, Don Millar and Dick Newell, are perfect examples of the variety of ways the volunteers help connect people to the land. They have been volunteering since the organization’s inception in 2005, providing expert training to their fellow volunteers and helping to monitor flora and fauna in the field.
Each Tuesday, Don and Dick venture out into the northern areas of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks to collect data from wildlife monitoring cameras. These cameras help the Conservancy scientists track wildlife movement and how it is affected by human access. Don and Dick also help to train their fellow volunteers. They are both experts in local plants and expert trackers, and they train Conservancy volunteers, docents and staff so that the public can benefit.
“People protect what they understand and care about,” says Dick. “It is our mission to provide them with the opportunity to learn more about wildlife and how to become engaged in protecting it.”
With experienced teachers like these, volunteering for Irvine Ranch Conservancy is open to people from all backgrounds. The only requirement to begin training is an interest in connecting people to the treasured wilderness and open space in your own community. The next Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteer orientation session is June 30. For more information, or to register as a potential volunteer, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/volunteer.
“It is a great way to access the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks and make a difference to the environment,” says Don. “There are some great people working and volunteering here.”