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Earth Team Volunteer Program Featured Volunteer Vignette - Don Huffman

Earth Team Volunteer Program:  Featured Earth Team Volunteer Vignettes - Don Huffman

Featured Volunteer: Donald J. Huffman
Location: Portland, Oregon
Volunteer Job Title: Hydrologist
Don Huffman at Bull Pass

Don Huffman at Bull Pass.

Huffman Now enjoying His Work as an Earth Team Volunteer

When he retired as a hydrologist from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center in January of 2004, Don Huffman said that he knew he would be back. “I really enjoyed my job, the program, and the people that I worked with,” he said. “But it was time to slow down a bit and let some of the younger folks step up to exercise their knowledge and try out some fresh ideas.”

Don began his career as a Soil Conservation Trainee with SCS in 1966 in the Work Unit in Fort Benton, Montana. While attending classes at Montana State University in Bozeman, he worked in the state office with the River Basin Planning Staff, and in the Snow Survey Program. He also spent time as a Great Plains Program planner while awaiting orders to active duty as an officer in the United States Air Force.

When Don returned to Montana from the military he knew exactly what he wanted to do. “I wanted back into the Snow Survey Program,” he said. “Where else could I work out doors in the mountains, and get paid to ski and ride snowmobiles all winter long. I was hooked.”

Thirty-three years and more than 4,200 volunteer hours later, he’s still hooked. He says that since retirement, being part of the NRCS Earth Team has allowed him a rare opportunity to continue to travel, maintain his troubleshooting and repair proficiency, and most importantly, be able to work with the newer or less experienced NRCS employees now installing and maintaining SCAN and SNOTEL soil and climatic monitoring gear.

Since becoming a volunteer, Huffman has been an integral part of the NWCC teams tasked with installing, troubleshooting and maintaining new generation equipment and sensors. He has worked with NRCS personnel and their partners from Alaska to Texas and from Hawaii to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Because of his unique expertise, he was invited to join National Soil Survey Lab personnel spending part of a field season with New Zealanders, retrieving data from and maintaining soil climate stations in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

Looking back over his last four years as an Earth Team volunteer, he says he thinks his efforts have helped make a difference. The SNOTEL and SCAN systems provide extremely important snow, water, and climatic data for a multitude of users who make critical decisions based on this information. “Providing quality data means seeing that sensors in the field have to be installed, calibrated, and operating properly, and that the collected data is transmitted in a timely and consistent manner,” Huffman stated. “Having trained volunteers available to help accomplish these tasks during our current times of shrinking budgets and reduced staffs, is huge. Besides that,” he says, “it’s still a whole lot of fun.”

Don’s supervisor at the NWCC is Garry L. Schaefer at 503-414-3068.
Don can be reached at the NWCC at 503-414-3032


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