Volunteer Spotlight – Michael Friebel

Posted on August

The South Yuba River Citizens League Board of Directors and Staff would like to sincerely thank all of the tremendous volunteers who help dedicate enormous amounts of time, skills, and enthusiasm to SYRCL’s mission.

What motivated you to become a River monitor?

I wanted to contribute in some significant way to the conservation of the local ecology and becoming a river monitor offered me that opportunity. The crucial role river monitoring plays in watershed assessment was especially attractive to me. Watersheds seem to present an ideal unit of focus for local conservation efforts and so I thought volunteering in this way might make the most of the limited time I have available.

I also liked the idea of participating in a scientific process that yields objective insight on the ecological and hydrological health of such a large, complex, and important area. I think this sort of effort is essential for the restoration and continued protection of the Yuba Watershed because it allows us to identify and assess issues and then most effectively communicate them to the larger community, including policy-makers. This influences as well as serves personal and cultural values and is obviously critical for maximum impact.

Furthermore, I think our data collection likely has impact well beyond the Yuba Watershed. It ultimately contributes to revealing and emphasizing the complexity and importance of the larger ecology as well as watersheds in general. This should improve the common understanding of the environment, which, in turn, should affect how it is considered. It may even affect how we think about ourselves. Watersheds vividly demonstrate both our ecological and social interdependence and seeing this may prompt consideration of our place in nature as well as our ecological and social obligations.

Finally, river monitoring includes outdoor and technical work, which I enjoy. I also thought it would provide a tangible sense of accomplishment for a relatively small investment of time, since each site visit definitely and permanently adds to our body of knowledge regarding the watershed.

Were you a SYRCL volunteer in another capacity before becoming a river monitor?

No, but I simultaneously volunteered to be SYRCL’s Turbidity Tester, which I perform concurrently.

In what capacity have you helped in the River Monitoring program?

Aside from working as a river monitor and turbidity tester, I recently received training in the deployment and use of automatic temperature data loggers in the event that SYRCL needs volunteer help in that capacity in the future.

How long have you been a RM and what site/s have you been at?

I’m new to the program, having only volunteered in March. I have the outrageously cushy assignment of Site #36 on Upper Rush Creek, located just off Highway 49, about halfway between Nevada City and the South Yuba River. However, this is because I also complete turbidity testing on river monitoring days. I wouldn’t mind taking on a more challenging assignment someday, but Site #36 is a nice introduction and is fine for now.

Have you been involved with SYRCL events?

I have only helped out with the Annual Auction and River Celebration so far, but I’m sure I’ll become involved with other SYRCL events in the future. I’m already on-the-line for next year’s auction.

What is your favorite place in the Yuba Watershed?

That’s a tough question at the moment. I am a fairly new resident of the area and I haven’t been able to explore the watershed nearly as much as I would like. I also live near the Bear and American rivers and so they draw my attention and time as well. I have enjoyed South Yuba River State Park quite a lot, but I expect that my favorite places will be nearer to the headwaters. I tend to enjoy the higher elevations most.

What are the positive/negative/ interesting aspects of being a River Monitor for SYRCL?

The most positive aspect is the fulfillment in knowing that I have contributed to the protection of the watershed and its ecosystems. Meeting and working with all the wonderful people involved in the endeavor is likewise positive. I also enjoy working outdoors and experiencing places I may not have otherwise visited.

Developing a close observational relationship with a particular site over the long-term is both positive and interesting. I haven’t been at my site very long but I expect that I will see many changes in the creek and its riparian area as time goes on that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, including but not limited to the measurements I take. A particular change in the creek’s annual flow pattern is a good example of something I have already learned.

I’m not aware of any negative aspects. Of course, being a river monitor does take some time, but it doesn’t demand much and SYRCL seems to strive to accommodate whatever time and abilities its volunteers have to offer, which, by the way, is a positive aspect that caught my attention when I was seeking an organization for which to volunteer.

What are some of your hobbies, interests/passions?

I like to read, hike, travel, be outdoors, and volunteer with SYRCL. But, Joanna and I spend most of our time caring for our 11-month-old daughter and working on our property, building a home and caring for a number of animals (mostly goats) and many plants and trees.

How long have you lived in the area?

Four years. I’m originally from Hawaii and have lived in various locations in the South, Mid-West, and Northwest, but I really love living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and intend to stay here in Grass Valley permanently.

Anything else that you would like to add?

Volunteer! It’s good for you, good for the community, good for the ecology, and a lot of fun to boot!