Tag Archives: volunteer

Father and Son Take a Volunteer Vacation

Today we’re hearing a great story from guest blogger, Larry Miller, the Hatchery Manager at Allegheny National Fish Hatchery in Warren, Pennsylvania.

Volunteer Vacation, or voluntourism, is becoming an attractive way to travel around the globe for those looking to get away, make an impact, take a career break, or investigate a new career path. Voluntourism is a great way to see and become immersed in a new town or country, and offers a unique opportunity to have fun, while giving your trip a sense of purpose. Recently, we welcomed a son and his father a vacation together volunteering at the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery. Not only did the men provide valuable assistance to the hatchery, they got to spend quality time together and fish the Allegheny River.

Craig Gaviglia is a student at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania studying environmental science with an interest in natural resource management. Dave Gaviglia, Craig’s dad, works for an engineering firm as an environmental consultant working on investigating groundwater contamination and its clean-up. Craig wanted to gain some experience in the natural resources field so together we worked out a plan for Craig to volunteer at the hatchery for a week. Craig’s dad, Dave, thought this sounded like a neat idea, so he decided to accompany Craig for a father-son adventure and also volunteer for the week.

Photo by Dace Gaviglia

Craig and Dave spent their week feeding fish, cleaning raceways, and conducting fish inventories of growth and survival. Craig’s most memorable task was adipose fin clipping the bloaters,a native prey fish being restored to Lake Ontario to help restore lake trout and land-locked Atlantic salmon. Fin clipping helps biologists in the Service, State, and Canadian natural resource agencies identify the hatchery-stocked bloaters and evaluate the success of bloater restoration efforts.

Craig told staff “This was a great experience. I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know the staff and I gained a greater appreciation for the fish restoration work occurring at the hatchery.” Indeed, the work seemed right up Craig’s alley. He said “It’s almost like a hobby, not a job,” much like the adage by Mark Twain “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

As for his favorite part of the experience Dave said “I enjoyed working side by side with my son. I also enjoyed learning about the hatchery and how meticulous the work can be caring for the fish. I would do it again if given the chance.”

It was certainly not all work and no play for Craig and Dave. Both are avid angling enthusiasts and plied the waters of the Allegheny River and its tributaries in the Kinzua Dam area. Craig caught a nice brown trout and a palomino trout in some feeder streams to the Allegheny, and he also caught a nice rainbow trout just downstream of the hatchery on the Allegheny River.

Click here to learn more about the Allegheny National Fish Hatchery.

A Heaven Scent Nose Knows Hometown Heroes

Dianne Thees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pennsylvania Field Office, her husband Mike, along with their dogs Luke and Belle, were honored by their town of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, with the Hometown Hero award for their incredible volunteer service in canine search and rescue.

Initially inspired by her brother, Dianne began volunteering in canine search and rescue as a way to give back to others. Realizing her passion, canine search and rescue quickly became a lifestyle for Dianne, and in 2007, Dianne and Mike founded Heaven Scent Search and Rescue.

Dianne and Mike, along with their two beloved bloodhounds, have been an active part of search and rescue efforts in their community and in surrounding counties. Partnering with state and local police, they have helped locate missing children and adults, lost hunters and hikers, and suspects in a variety of criminal investigations.

Dianne and Belle running a trail.

In addition to active search and rescue, the Thees team provides educational programs to police and fire departments, school programs, Boy Scout troops, church groups, and other civic organizations. They also provide opportunities for volunteers to act as “runners”, or the persons of interest, during training.

Dianne and Mike only use bloodhounds in their search and rescue efforts, since bloodhounds are bred specifically for finding humans. Mike says, “bloodhounds are scent discriminatory and are unique in what they do. No two people smell the same, not even identical twins or triplets and we’ve worked with both. Your scent is like a thumb print to them,” each one is different.

Dianne and Mike’s heroic work does not go unrecognized. “To have the community nominate and select you, and recognize the thousands of volunteer hours you’ve put in training and traveling, is extremely humbling,” says Dianne. She spends most of her vacation time on search calls.

Lora Lattanzi, project leader and supervisor for the Pennsylvania Field Office, feels incredibly fortunate and proud to have Dianne as part of her team and their community. “With over 33 years as a federal employee, and 18 years spent training and working with bloodhounds for search and rescue, Dianne truly epitomizes hard work, dedication, and selfless service to others.”

Thank you Dianne, Mike, Luke, and Belle for all that you do!

 

 

 

Yield of Streams: If you remove it, they will come

Little feet tread through slushy April snow and approach the railing, peering over the edge of the bridge into the cold, flowing water of the Shawsheen River in eastern Massachusetts.

“I see one!”

They counted them 1,2,3.

The Joshi family children shouted out numbers as silver blue blurs glided through the dark water.

“We counted 95,” recalled Andover resident Jon Honea. He explained that this meant that as many as 425 passed by when volunteers weren’t watching.

They were counting river herring­­ – alewives and blueback herring, two closely related species of migratory fish that hadn’t been seen in the river for nearly two centuries.

And while river herring are no Shoeless Joe Jackson, their homecoming to the Shawsheen points to the success of the recent removal of the Balmoral and Marland Place Dams.

“All you have to do is make space,” said Honea, member of the Andover Conservation Commission and an environmental science professor at Emerson College.

Tracking the herring’s return to the Shawsheen River was a community affair, drawing over 250 volunteers. Residents from the Atria assisted living facility – whose residence was threatened by increased flood risk from the dam – joined the fun, alongside Andover high school students and dedicated families like the Joshi family, who counted multiple times every week.

“The removal of these two dams not only increases the resiliency of the Town of Andover, but reconnects the community to the river by restoring lost recreational opportunities and natural ecological processes upon which we all rely,” explained Bill Bennett, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist.

Not only were these dams a public safety hazard – heightening flood risk and threatening paddlers – they also blocked the travels of migratory fish throughout the river.

Dams prevent rivers from flowing naturally, impairing water quality and interrupting natural stream processes that both people and wildlife populations rely on.

Partners and volunteers have already documented a steady reappearance of river herring in the Shawsheen, but other wildlife such as American shad and American eel are also expected to arrive.

These removals opened up 4.1 miles of the river and restored 16 acres of wildlife habitat, allowing these fish to reach spawning grounds that are critical for their survival.

Though these smaller fish aren’t coveted by anglers, they are eaten by other wildlife such as larger game fish – like striped bass – shorebirds, raptors and river otters.

Snapping turtles and great blue heron have also been observed enjoying the free-flowing state of the lower Shawsheen River, below the remaining Ballardvale Dam.

Jane Cairns of the Andover Historical Society explained the rich history of the Shawsheen River, mentioning that the Marland Place Dam supported mill operations in the town, even powering a site that at one point supplied gunpowder to George Washington’s Continental Army.

She, like Honea, is also a member of the Shawsheen Greenway, an organization focused on making the Shawsheen River corridor a vital recreational, cultural, transportation, and educational resource for the entire community and region.

“We’ve been reminded, as many other communities have before us, that a clean and healthy, free-flowing river is a significant asset for the town, and can provide a boost to both our recreational and business resources,” Cairns said.

Nick Wildman, a restoration specialist from the Massachusetts Department Fish & Game, has been involved with these removals since 2009. He called the projects a “public investment for public benefit,” adding that the dam removals along the Shawsheen River represent a resurgence of the place that rivers have in our lives.

It doesn’t end there. Though public safety and stewardship of the river and fisheries were paramount to community leaders, fewer dams are a home run for experienced paddlers, who no longer have to transport their boats around the dams on land.

“The newly opened stretches of the river are quite beautiful and exciting,” Honea said. “There are long stretches with just forest on either side and several newly accessible drops, including a couple very exciting rapids.”

“These projects are not possible without strong partnerships between the federal, state, and local communities,” Bennett said.

Some of these partners embarked on a celebratory paddling trip in May to explore the newly free-flowing Shawsheen River.

Three canoes set out on the river. Eric Hutchins of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bill Bennett of the Service in one, Nick Nelson of Interfluve – a national firm focused on river restoration – and his son in another, and Andover’s Conservation Commissioners, Jon Honea and Floyd Greenwood, in the third boat.

While paddling, Hutchins and Nelson noticed a gizzard shad also exploring the newly restored river.

“Rivers are the lifeblood of our nation and their stewardship is of the utmost importance,” Bennett said.

The town sees it the same way.

“The Town of Andover is very excited about the removal of the dams – many people see this as the start of a real renaissance of the Shawsheen,” said Bob Douglas, conservation director for the Town of Andover. “Our residents are looking forward to being able to paddle the unbridled Shawsheen from the Ballardvale mill district, through the center of town, all the way to the mighty Merrimack.”