Other ways of getting involved
  • Donate. Your donation helps support the vital work we do and helps us build a sustainable organization by covering overhead costs not included in project grants. To donate to Sierra Streams Institute, click here.
  • Sign up for our email newsletter. Newsletters are sent every quarter. We will not share your email address with anyone. To sign up for the email newsletter, click here.
  • Become a fan on Facebook. Our Facebook page is good place to learn about what's happening and to share your thoughts and photographs. To go to our Facebook page, click here.


Sierra Streams Institute welcomes volunteers of all ages and backgrounds with an interest in our work and a desire to participate. Recruiting young people through school and community service helps promote interest in scientific study while furthering our work. Volunteers are thoroughly trained and paired with experienced staff members for all projects and regular monitoring activities, both in the field and in the lab.
Volunteer sign-up

Our award-winning water quality monitoring program is a citizen-based effort, based almost entirely on volunteer labor. Monitoring opportunities are available at several sites in the Deer Creek watershed. Sites are located throughout Nevada County, with sampling locations in and around Nevada City, Rough and Ready, Penn Valley, and Lake Wildwood. Monitoring takes place during the second week of the month and requires a commitment of 1-2 hours per month. In June and October volunteers assist with collecting macroinvertebrates (creek bugs) from their monitoring sites. No experience needed—training will be provided.


Justin Wood sampling dissolved oxygen and conductivity at a site in Nevada City. Photo by Sol Henson.

You can help us process macroinvertebrate samples in our laboratory. This is a great opportunity to obtain valuable lab and observation skills and learn a great deal about dichotomous keys and invertebrate anatomy and zoology. Volunteers use microscopes to count and identify macroinvertebrates in the lab. Macroinvertebrate sessions occur every Wednesday morning from 8 to 12, and on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday evening of each month from 5 to 8. Join our volunteer bug expert Sandy Williamson and others in the lab and learn about these cool creek critters! No experience needed--training will be provided.

benthic macroinvertebrates ID

Identifying benthic macroinvertebrates in our "macro" lab. Photo by Sandy Williamson.

Sierra Streams Institute and American Rivers are constructing a nine-mile loop trail, the Deer Creek Tribute Trail, along Deer Creek in Nevada County. You can help build this important means of accessing and enjoying Deer Creek. The trail runs from the Newtown Canal ditch down to Deer Creek at Stocking Flat. Contact the Tribute Trail coordinator for upcoming work dates. Equipment and tools will be provided, but don’t hesitate to bring your own. Bring water, snacks, work gloves. Wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.

restoration day

Photo by Matt Freitas.

Help us remove English Ivy, Himalayan Blackberry, and other non-native plants from Deer Creek's riparian corridor and re-plant these areas with native vegetation. Restoration projects may also involve trail construction, bank armoring, and various forms of erosion control. Volunteers will be able to assist with trail construction, invasive plant removal, and native seed or plant planting. If you are interested in these volunteer efforts, please contact our Restoration Ecologist.

restoration day

Ivy removal during Restoration Day on December 5, 2009.. Photo by Matt Freitas.

Get out in the field at random hours and see some amazing stream flows! The goal of our storm water sampling project is to collect samples during the times of high stream flow that result from rain and snowmelt events. Samples are collected for water quality, suspended solids, and mercury analysis. Volunteers will assist with sample collection at several sites in the Deer Creek watershed. Sites are concentrated around Nevada City and Lake Wildwood Reservoir.

storm sampling

Storm water sampling in March, 2010. Photo by Justin Wood.

During three weeks in June, and then again in October, we collect benthic macroinvertebrates and algae and then perform physical habitat assessments. All this field work requires many volunteers. You get to play in the creek, collect bugs and slimy algae, and learn about hydrology, geomorphology, and river ecology. Visit our Stream Science page for examples of the kinds of data you can help generate, as well as information on why these are important activities.


Algal growth in the creek. Photo by Justin Wood.