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NJ Nomination of Colleen Earp for FY13 Earth Team Individual Volunteer Award

Colleen Earp worked with Soil Scientist Fred Schoenagel throughout FY 2013. This is Fred's nomination of Colleen for the FY 2013 Individual Earth Team Award.

(1) Magnitude of work:

Ms. Earp assisted with the initialization or completion of several soils projects I was working on during Fiscal Year 2013.  All of the projects involved soils and varied greatly in scope, but Ms. Earp expressed a great deal of enthusiasm and interest towards all the work needed to be accomplished.

The field activities that Ms. Earp assisted me with included finding sites for an upcoming soil lab sampling for glacial soils in northern New Jersey; collecting field data for soil survey mapping projects in northern New Jersey; collecting field data for problematic hydric soils being studied in the Coastal Plain of New Jersey by the Mid-Atlantic Hydric Soils Committee; evaluating soils during soils investigations for the NJ-NRCS field offices; and evaluating soils and sites for various field trips and tours that would serve as educational/outreach opportunities with high school and college students and NRCS partner agencies.

(2) Need for the Service and Achievement:

Ms. Earp’s assistance was invaluable to me, as during the time of her availability I was recovering from a severe neck injury and was limited physically from performing many of the tasks required of my job and for these projects. The field activities she assisted me with included digging soil pits using hand tools such as shovels and augers and carrying this digging equipment for long distances over uneven terrain.  She was a careful but aggressive field person and was capable of performing all the fieldwork tasks that I could not fully carry out.  She learned to dig with a shovel as competently as any NRCS Soil Scientist ever could. Even when I had recovered from my injury and was able to resume my normal field activities, she was able to keep up with me and always put in a wonderful effort and never complained about the physical aspects of the job.

Many of the projects we worked on required a certain amount of field data to be collected for the purpose of developing project plans for them. These project plans were to be submitted to regional NRCS Soil Survey Offices or to the National Soil Survey Laboratory in order to obtain their approval as official projects that would benefit the conservation and Soil Survey Division parts of NRCS.  Without Ms. Earp’s assistance, none of these projects would have had suitable data collected or would have been far enough along for me to have been able to create project plans and submit them for approval during Fiscal Year 2013.

(3) Challenges:

The challenges that Ms. Earp faced in her work with me included the need to increase her knowledge of basic soil science concepts and to learn the methods and terminology used to identify and describe soils. There were also the physical challenges of having to dig soil pits with hand tools such as shovels and augers. Many of the soils we worked with were difficult to excavate due to the presence of hard or compacted soil horizons or high percentages of rock fragments. Many of the sites where we conducted fieldwork required long walks to gain access, and in many places there were no trails so we had to walk through dense underbrush or tall grass. We had to work outside in adverse conditions on a number of occasions, including days with very high or very low temperatures, and a few days where precipitation was falling. No matter what were the circumstances or working conditions, I could count on Ms. Earp to be a willing and full participant in all aspects of the day’s tasks.

(4) Partnerships:

During her time working with me, the professionalism that Ms. Earp displayed, along with her energy and enthusiasm, left an impression on everyone that met her. She contributed greatly to all the projects we worked on, but especially with our educational/outreach activities, where she would use her background in geography and history to enhance the soils information I was teaching in both lectures and on field trips. That additional information helped to create much richer educational experiences for the groups we were training or teaching, and left lasting impressions that I believe will result in repeated opportunities to work with the groups and colleges for which we presented. These groups included two agricultural colleges in NJ and PA, the Mid-Atlantic Hydric Soils Committee (a multi-state, inter-agency group of scientists representing NRCS, NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), academia, and private industry), and the NJ Envirothon Committee. The NJ Envirothon is a national environmental education competition for high school students. It is organized on the state level by an inter-agency group of many state and federal partners, including NJ Department of Agriculture (NJDA), NJ Association of Conservation Districts (NJACD), NJDEP, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service, and NRCS

Ms. Earp had previously volunteered with the Freehold NRCS Service Center here in New Jersey, and also volunteered with the Kingman NRCS office when she lived briefly in Arizona, for a total of 182 hours in FY2013. In each office she was able to network with other NRCS or partner agency employees to seek out opportunities to help out with other projects. I think her work enhanced the reputation and image of both Earth Team volunteers and NRCS. She is a truly valuable asset to NRCS and an inspiration to me.