AmeriCorps is a national program that places thousands of young adults each year into intensive service positions where they learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop an appreciation for citizenship. Since the program’s founding in 1994, more than 1 million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing more than 2.3 million volunteers for the organizations they serve.
“AmeriCorps volunteers have given so much to Sierra Streams Institute,” said executive director Joanne Hild. “Each year they bring such a wealth of knowledge and commitment and make enormous contributions to organization. We literally could not do all the things we do here without the energy, training and talent of these fabulous young people. The only down side is that we have to say good-bye to them at the end of their service year. I’d keep each and every one of them if I could.” (It’s no accident that current staff members Justin Wood, Sol Henson and Kelly Santos all started with SSI as AmeriCorps volunteers.) “That said, it’s extremely gratifying to know that the time they spend working with us adds to their scientific training and experience and helps to launch them onto a whole range of exciting career paths.”
To acknowledge the special role of AmeriCorps volunteers at SSI, we’re launching “Where Are They Now?”, a newsletter series tracking down former SSI AmeriCorps to learn more about what they’re doing now and how their time at Sierra Streams Institute helped shape their new paths. To kick things off, we reached out to our 2016 AmeriCorps volunteers – Sarah Angulo, Leah Campbell, and Alex Lincoln. Here’s what they shared with us!
SARAH ANGULO: After leaving SSI and my home in the mountains, I have been getting used to life at the coast once again. Since joining up with another small non-profit in Sonoma County at the beginning of September 2016, I’ve finally gotten a footing here in my new role as Volunteer Coordinator at Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. With over 350 volunteers involved in 22 different public education, citizen science, and stewardship programs, there certainly has been a lot to learn. My current job has me working in the office behind the scenes much more than at SSI, and I’ve had to adapt to a whole new set of challenges that a small non-profit faces!
I’ve so enjoyed meeting the dedicated volunteers who help my new organization carry out its mission. After almost a year of service in AmeriCorps, I notice I value volunteerism so much more – which has helped inspire me to make sure volunteers get the recognition, training, and benefits they deserve for their unpaid time! While progress can be much slower than I’d like at times, I look forward to being able to implement ideas that really started with my time at SSI in AmeriCorps.
Beyond work, I’ve been able to be closer to my sister and grandparents, which has been a blessing as I’ve dealt with a recent loss in the family. I’ve managed to get out and explore my new environment, with the Sonoma Coast and the redwoods being a short 30 minute drive away! I feel lucky for all the support from my time at SSI and SNAP that has carried me to where I am now, and look forward to where it will take me in the future!
LEAH CAMPBELL: I’m currently working as a Policy Analyst at California Coastkeeper Alliance (http://cacoastkeeper.org/). We’re part of the international Waterkeeper Alliance organization that includes over 200 programs around the world and 13 local watershed groups in California. Coastkeeper Alliance represents those 13 California groups (which now includes SYRCL’s new Yuba Riverkeeper program) on statewide policy and advocacy efforts around clean and abundant water supplies and healthy oceans. We’re super small and it’s only been 6 months so my job is to help out with every issue areas and every component of our organization, including development, outreach, admin, and policy.
My favorite part of the gig is, unsurprisingly, the policy aspect. I get to testify at agency meetings and am in charge of tracking state legislation. As such I’ve learned so much about policy and state government. On the other hand, I also love the diversity of things we do and where we work. I get to visit local groups around the state and learn about what they’re doing and how we can support them with statewide initiatives. Every day is slightly different since I’m working on everything from MPAs to sea level rise and desalination to water conservation and recycling to drinking water.
What I miss most about SSI is the fieldwork and the people. I do get to travel, but the rest of the time I’m sitting at my desk so I definitely miss getting outside on a regular basis and getting my hands dirty (literally). Even though I get to work with so many great people in my current position, there was something so congenial and supportive of SSI. It was a pretty unique working environment in that the whole staff felt like a family and AmeriCorps were treated like equal staff from Day One. I doubt I’d be where I am now without how the support, independence, and encouragement I got at SSI!
ALEX LINCOLN: After my Americorps term ended at SSI, I started graduate studies at the University of Washington in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) where I am pursuing my Master’s degree. I’m involved in the school’s Alaska Salmon Program (link here: http://depts.washington.edu/aksalmon/), and am studying patterns of grizzly bear foraging on sockeye salmon. This keystone interaction between bears and salmon transports marine-derived nutrients from salmon into terrestrial ecosystems as bears kill salmon and bring them onto land, allowing many secondary scavengers and even vegetation to take advantage of salmon energy and nutrients. I’m also involved with a long-term monitoring project on the Elwha River in Washington, looking at how trout utilize the estuary and how recent removal of the two large dams on the mainstem Elwha has impacted estuarine use by these fish (this is the largest dam removal project in U.S. history — see a short video here: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/160602-us-elwha-river-dam-removal-restoration-vin).
I’d say that the best part of returning back to school is the wealth and diversity of ideas and research projects at SAFS. While many of us here study fish, there are also many who study other aquatic organisms — shellfish, frogs, polar bears, seabirds, zooplankton and much more. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by the leaders and future leaders in the field, and to be able to study the fascinating changes that salmon and trout undergo throughout their lives and the ecological role of fish that migrate between freshwater and the sea!
I’ve been having a lot of fun up in Seattle, but I certainly miss the wonderful staff and volunteers at Sierra Streams. My time at SSI was formative in guiding my decision to pursue aquatic ecology in graduate school, and my experience wouldn’t have been the same without the welcoming and encouraging people I got to work with on a daily basis. Also, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Deer Creek, the Yuba River, and the Bear River — I hope that SSI citizen scientists present and future continue to recognize what a privilege it is to interact with these beautiful watersheds in both a scientific and personal way!