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Earth Team Volunteers in Wisconsin

Volunteering helps in developing career goals

Altoona Service Center -Reena Bowman

Reena Bowman, Office Automation Clerk, for the Altoona Service Center started her career at the NRCS as an Earth Team volunteer in the summer of 2011. She first learned of the agency through an internet search for volunteer opportunities in conservation. After learning more about the agency and its goals she felt that serving as an Earth Team volunteer would be a perfect way to stay current in her field of study and gain additional skills.

In July 2011, Reena started as an Earth Team Volunteer for Eau Claire County. Throughout the summer she was able to assist the service center by performing CRP field checks and EQIP construction visits. These experiences furthered her passion for conservation and exposed her to conservation issues on private land. That fall she accepted a position as an Office Automation Clerk for the Altoona Service Center. In this position Reena has been able to expand her knowledge of NRCS programs and has plans to further her career with the NRCS. Serving as an Earth Team volunteer provided valuable experience, exposure to the agency, and helped her develop career goals.  

Ashland Service Center - Pam Roberts

Pamela Roberts is an air photo slide scanning project volunteer at the Ashland NRCS Service Center.  She learned about the Earth Team Program through local District Conservationist, Gary Haughn.  In the past, Pamela has worked for a Land Conservation Department where she gained great appreciation for conservation of the land.  She has also worked with the Bad River Tribe.  While with the Tribe she served as their representative on the Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council. The Council works closely with local NRCS in applying conservation practices on Tribal lands.  Pamela is looking to further her work in the conservation field and hopes to eventually work for NRCS.



West Bend Service Center - Travis Mead

Last fall I was roaming around on the NRCS’s website and stumbled upon a webpage about being an Earth Team Volunteer. Two years prior I was applying for jobs on the website for soil conservationist vacancies. With no real success, I wondered how I could receive some real hands on experience? After seeing the Earth Team webpage and reading about being an Earth Team Volunteer that’s when I decided to contact my area NRCS office. 

From the time I was a little boy and growing up on a farm, I’ve always wanted to protect the woods and fields that my family called our land. The land that harvested crops for the 70 head of cattle we milked twice a day.

Once I became older and started to contemplate what career would suit me, I thought back to the days on the farm and how I could help in the planning process. I decided that Landscape Architecture was the path I wanted to pursue. After going to college and receiving my degree as a Landscape Architect, I realized that I wanted to help protect the land that we raise our families on. 

During a two month period this last summer, I volunteered Fridays working closely with a District Soil Conservationist Josh Odekirk,  Soil Conservationist Elsie Gonzales and Soil Conservation Technician Aaron Reynolds in the West Bend field office. While I was volunteering I helped put together producer files. In these files we would put soil maps, contracts and other necessary paperwork for approvals for the NRCS’s programs such as CRP, WRP, CSP, and EQIP. At times I would ride along for site visits and contract signatures. During one of the site visits we looked at field erosion near a bordering wetland. One of the major concerns was water quality and how we could redirect and capture the sediments from the eroding field. 

My experience volunteering with the NRCS has opened my eyes to what I really want to do with my education and my hands-on experiences. Volunteering allowed me to become familiar with NRCS. The connections and friendships  that have been made will not be forgotten.

Madison State Office - Shaun Anderson

In December 2010, I graduated with a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Platteville. As a new graduate, I eagerly set out to find full-time employment in my field, but was continually reminded that the current economic slump is the worst job seekers have encountered in several decades. Month by month, I began to feel that I was falling farther and farther behind, but continued to look for an engineering position while working as a produce clerk in a local grocery store. In the summer of 2011, five months after graduating, I accepted a seasonal position as a water utility construction inspector. A few months later, my contract was fulfilled and, I was back at square one. I had a bit more experience to add to my résumé, but still no full-time job. After two more months of sending resumes and cover letters, I still had not received an offer for even an interview. It was late fall, not a good time for seasonal work in engineering, my prospects seemed grimed, and I was frustrated.

A friend who had experienced similar circumstances told me about the Earth Team. She had volunteered with the NRCS and had been able to gain practical experience in the field, while also really enjoying her time there. I looked into Earth Team and I began to realize that it was an excellent opportunity; I would be able to gain valuable experience in the engineering field while continuing to look for full-time employment. I contacted Barb Jensen, volunteer coordinator at the Wisconsin NRCS state office, and she directed me to Scott Mueller, the Wisconsin Assistant State Conservation Engineer. In November 2011, I began volunteering 16 hours a week with Scott, working on a few design spreadsheets for manure storage and plunge pools. I also worked on a new construction specification for aggregate base, and variety of other projects. Each project that I contributed to was challenging and fun, and they each allowed me put my degree and past experience to work for a wonderful cause.

In February 2012, I was offered a full-time position with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation as a Design and Construction Engineer. During the interview for this position, my interviewers were impressed by my ability to stay active in the engineering field despite the lack of opportunities, by volunteering through the NRCS Earth Team. Being a member of the NRCS Earth Team was a great experience, and I highly recommend the Earth Team to anyone who is in a similar employment situation or is looking to do a little something extra to protect the environment.