SNAP-What am I Doing Here?

By Anna Schwyter, SYRCL’s River Monitoring Coordinator

SNAP-Logo-FINAL-e1486751368388SNAP (urban dictionary)

  1. An expression which expresses expression.
  2. A word used to express a feeling of excitement generated during an unexpected or impressive event.

SNAP (in regards to Anna’s life)

  1. Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership: Each year, the Sierra Nevada Alliance places 28 AmeriCorps members with partner conservation organizations throughout the Sierra Nevada.
  2. A program administered by California Volunteers and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

During my 11-month term of service, as a SNAP member I have been restoring and monitoring impaired Sierra watersheds, educating and providing outreach to Sierra residents and visitors on environmental issues, as well as recruiting and managing volunteers for a citizen science River Monitoring program. SYRCL is my host site.

Monitoring water quality: Lower Castle Creek, a tributary to the South Yuba River, March 2017

This is my first job out of college that I am using my degree and let me tell you how great that feels! All the hard work to pay for and earn my degree, totally paying off in this 11-month immersion in practical experience. Running a volunteer-based program is a radical, diverse task involving recruitment, training and ongoing communication and relationship-building. Working with community members who care so much about our watershed, enough to give up their time to monitor, restore and advocate for it-that is humbling and oh so inspiring to me.

Serving as SYRCL’s River Monitoring Coordinator, I manage a program that monitors 35 sites throughout the 3100 square mile Yuba River watershed with the invaluable help of over 50 volunteers every month. We collect water quality data including temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, and nutrient and bacteria content. Our publicly available data contributes to the protection and restoration of waterways for healthy wildlife, safe recreation, and reliable water supplies.

Retrieving temperature logger from Oregon Creek, October 2017

Working in an office for the first time has also been a learning opportunity for me. When am I most productive? Do I communicate with colleagues and volunteers via email, phone, or face to face? How long do I have to wait before eating those unclaimed leftovers in the fridge?

Measuring discharge on Little Wolf Creek, March 2017

But for real, having a relevant job as a recent college graduate is relieving. I feel justified. All that time and energy going towards my degree, late nights in the library, multiple part-time jobs to pay tuition, pouring myself into projects and leadership workshops. Weeks upon weeks of searching for a job relevant to my degree in a region I am interested in living, all paid off when I was accepted to the 2017 SNAP position with SYRCL.

Some history:  In 1990, the independent government agency called the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS) was formed, in order to manage three main programs: the Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America. Based off these programs’ missions, CNCS created six major focus areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.

AmeriCorps specifically is a national network of hundreds of programs across the nation that has utilized over 800,000 volunteers since 1994. Since 2007, the SNAP Program has restored more than 13,000 watershed acres, monitored more than 2,000 sites, educated more than 165,000 individuals, recruited more than 33,000 volunteers, and contributed more than 475,000 hours of service.

May I reiterate: I am grateful, I am humbled.

Training new citizen science river monitor volunteers at Bridgeport Crossing, April 2017

Through this commitment to serving the Yuba River watershed, the Sierra Nevada region, and our country with AmeriCorps I am taking my education in watersheds and water resources beyond classroom learning. And I’m getting to do it in a super beautiful, rad, inspiring environment. There is so much to learn about geology, botany, geomorphology, hydrology, human interaction, volunteer management, time management, project innovation, grant writing…

Seven months into my SNAP service term I can certainly say that I’m learning a lot, and at times it can feel overwhelming. I find it invaluable to check in with the citizen science volunteers I work with and remember that we are filling a vital need in our watershed, but not to take myself too seriously. Under my leadership, SYRCL’s River Monitoring program has grown by over a dozen new volunteers and contributed over 350 volunteer hours of water quality monitoring.

My greatest joy is sharing what I love with others. Are you interested in water quality? Would you like to join me in the office or in the field? I am eager to dive into field season with meadow monitoring and a greater scope of water quality monitoring on the Yuba River and its tributaries-could you be my next citizen scientist volunteer?! I hope so!

*This post was adapted from my personal blog, feel free to follow along!