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Conservation Our purpose. Our passion.| Volunteer Vignette Evan Sullivan

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Volunteer Vignette

Evan Sullivan

Conservation Assistant & Earth Team Volunteer

Evan Sullivan (center) visits Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne, Mass.Evan Sullivan cares deeply about the environment. In August 2007, he put that commitment into practice by becoming an Earth Team volunteer with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Amherst, Massachusetts. A very bright, affable and mature high school junior, Evan quickly became a favorite of the Massachusetts NRCS staff. And his experience with the Earth Team solidified his resolve to pursue a career in environmental protection.

Through field work and meetings with staff members representing a variety of disciplines, Evan learned how NRCS employees work to achieve the agency’s mission goals. Much of the work in which Evan was involved was focused on clean and abundant water and healthy plant and animal communities.

Working with Dwane Coffey, District Conservationist with the Hadley NRCS Field office, Evan learned how a fish passage was created with funding through the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). The project also demonstrated the importance of obtaining proper permits and erosion control practices. Evan was also given a quick lesson in tree and plant identification, including categorizing weeds as invasive or non-invasive. It became clear to Evan that being a District Conservationist is a multi-faceted job that includes working with landowners, sharing agricultural knowledge and administering NRCS programs.

Nancy Sheard, Civil Engineering Technician, and Dennis Verdi, Planning Engineer, included Evan in their work on an Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) project. Evan was given some background and shown the construction plans for the project, a topographic survey done using AutoCAD software, and an aerial view of the site using ARC GIS software.

At the site, Nancy and Dennis conducted an update of the topographic cross section survey of the stream bank with Evan assisting as a rod person. By comparing data on the stream bank from past and present, the NRCS staffers showed Evan where erosion occurred and how much land had been swept away.

“Evan was an excellent rod person: very attentive, interested, and even going back and forth across the river when needed,” said Nancy. “He was very enthusiastic about the work and willing to learn about surveying and engineering.”

Tom Akin, Agronomist, gave Evan the opportunity to see the process of creating viable partnerships for landowners across the New England States. Evan attended a meeting with a group of farmers and university and government staff interested in forming a consortium for the common purpose of helping grazing landowners.

Evan got a taste of the administrative side to working at NRCS with John Kick, Natural Resource Specialist, who explained the function of NRCS databases and how they help manage workload and create transparency across the levels of government. “Through my experiences in and out of the office, I came to understand how important collaboration is within the agency,” said Evan, “and how work is monitored in order to be efficient.”

Evan also learned about the importance of educating and informing the public about NRCS’ conservation mission. He travelled with Diane Petit, Public Affairs Specialist, to Franklin County where they met up with Rita Thibodeau, District Conservationist for the Greenfield field office, Lisa Hall, Soil Conservationist and fellow Earth Team volunteer, Jennifer Cranshaw. The group visited Wheel-View Farm in Shelburne where Evan helped Diane interview Carolyn and John Wheeler for an article that will be part of the NRCS national campaign called “Conservation: Our purpose. Our passion”

“I had a great experience working as a volunteer with NRCS employees.” said Evan. “The people I met and helped last August were very knowledgeable, motivated and fun to be with. I know a lot more about what NRCS really does in Massachusetts and how NRCS is such a big resource, especially to farmers.”

“My volunteer work with NRCS has also made me a lot less anxious about my major in college, environmental engineering,” noted Evan. “I know for a fact it will be something I’ll be genuinely interested in not only as a student but also as an employed engineer. Looking back on my volunteer experience I would rather be outdoors and surveying any day!”


For More Information Contact:

Diane Baedeker Petit
Public Affairs Officer
413-253-4371
diane.petit@ma.usda.gov