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My Winter and Spring with NRCS

By Andrea Brendalen, Earth Team Volunteer

My time as an Earth Team Volunteer with the Norwich field office was full of new experiences.

I worked mainly under District Conservationist Javier Cruz, but also helped the field technicians.   Early on, I took pictures to document that conservation practices were being performed as written in contracts. 

Next, I assisted Javier in assessing and recording the exact locations of New England Cottontail brush piles using a Trimble handheld computer with GNSS. The brush piles we were working with were part of the New England Cottontail Initiative, which is part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

I also, completed two Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) applications for conservation plans submitted by the field technicians in the office.

The latter part of my volunteering included using a clinometer to find average slopes of fields for the purpose of preventing erosion through certain management practices that are developed for each field.  A fellow Volunteer and I performed most of the clinometer fieldwork together as it is much more efficient with two people.  We also used the Trimble handheld unit to find the exact location of a boundary to calculate the exact acreage included in a forestry management plan. NRCS needs to ensure that the acreage figured by the forester is the same as what we measure using the Trimble GPS unit and is written into the contract.

I feel that I had a well-rounded experience as an Earth Team volunteer. The amount of trust Javier had in my skills to complete tasks alone using expensive field equipment really gave me a hands-on, real-world experience and I felt I was part of the NRCS team.

While I mostly enjoyed the fieldwork, using the office computers and filing system for things like maps and soils was useful and necessary in order to complete the fieldwork.

What I took away from my time as an Earth Team volunteer is the amount of dedication and the tireless work that each and every person in the office put into their jobs.  The conservationists, engineers, and office staff with whom I worked in Norwich really furthered my desire to work for the environment and strengthen the connection that people have with the places they live.