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Volunteer Assists with Building and Repairing Monoliths

A soil monolith, or soil profile, is a slice of earth several feet deep that shows the different layers in soil.  There are an excellent tool to learn about soils, their characteristics, and how to manage, use and protect soil resources.  However, three decades of use in workshops and classrooms had taken its toll on the soil monoliths in the Connecticut state office, and finding the time to fix them seemed hard to come by.  In addition, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, the CT Department of Environmental Protection, Trinity College and Yale University had all requested soil monoliths, each looking for representative monoliths for their areas to use for educational venues.  The task of repairing and building them was put on a “to do” list as a potential activity for a volunteer.

Soil Scientists Shawn McVey and Debbie Surabian went looking for a volunteer to help them coordinate a workshop where they could repair and build the monoliths.  They didn’t have to wait long.  Cara Porteus, a recent graduate of Bucknell University had decided to take the advice of one of her business contacts and volunteer her skills to the NRCS while searching for just the right career.  Cara’s coursework and experience in geology and English combined with her outstanding leadership and organizational skills made her the perfect candidate. 

Cara lined up help to construct and paint the wood frames for the monoliths and assisted in collecting the soil samples.  On the day of the workshop, she assisted the participants in making the monoliths. 

In addition to repairing the monoliths and coordinating a successful soil monolith workshop, Cara also assisted with a ground penetrating radar onsite investigation for the NRCS engineers.  She also helped edit posters for presentation at an upcoming conference.  “Cara is an outstanding volunteer and a pleasure to work with,” said Shawn.  Both he and Debbie agree these projects wouldn’t have been as successful without her.

Ironically, Cara recently accepted a position from the same company that referred her to NRCS for volunteer work.  “I learned so much, not only about NRCS as an agency, but about employment in the public sector in general,” said Cara.  “I certainly think my time at NRCS strengthened my ties to the company that hired me.  Thank you for allowing me to help with the different projects and for taking the time to teach me about what you do.”